External communication: a blueprint

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]External communication allows any organisation to control its image and reputation: It reflects its values and philosophy, highlights its experience, know-how and capacity to innovate, and positions the organisation vis-à-vis its competitors.

This is why the entire organisation should be mobilised when defining its external communication plan. It is a golden opportunity for the organisation to take a step back and debate on a coherent strategy that can ultimately enhance the efficiency of the organisation itself. Because external communication is not about presenting your products and services; it is about the history and evolution of the organisation. It is about its societal, cultural and ideological values. External communication allows organisations to position themselves in their market, legitimise their social and economic activities and raise their profiles.

Objectives

External communication meets the profitability and growth objectives of any organisation, while improving its reputation. To achieve this, an external communication strategy must be expressed by the proposal of a clear and visible image towards the target audience.

The organisation must clearly position itself in the market, demonstrate its competency fields and assert its unique selling points, in order to differentiate itself and impose its image in a highly competitive market.

An efficient external communication strategy allows for the presentation of your offer, attracts commercial contacts and favours the word of mouth: In the social network era, any person can become your “ambassador”, reaching an average of 200 persons.

Steps to follow

External communications strategies are quite similar to the classical advertising campaigns, since the goal is to reach a target audience and move it to change or adopt a specific attitude, and act on the conveyed message. These are the steps to follow:

Take one step back

Start by doing some background research that will help you do a situation analysis, or SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis evaluates the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This can also be shrunk into a ‘problems & opportunities’ analysis regarding the challenge of the communication campaign that has to be launched. Understanding the nature of the problem makes it easier to determine the appropriate communication objectives and the target audiences who will be addressed.

Define your objectives

Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, it is time to define your objectives. Communication objectives could include:

  • Shaping or redefining the organisation’s reputation
  • Changing stakeholder attitudes, opinions or behaviours
  • Creating stronger relationships with key stakeholders or clients
  • Associating the organisation with a set of values or a good cause

Define your tools

For each objective, several strategies can be operated, and for each strategy, an indefinite number of tools can be implemented:

  • Direct marketing, advertising, lobbying and public relations
  • Relations with the media, press
  • Websites, mailing, social media accounts
  • Printed material, brochures, catalogues, newsletters

Implement your tools

Coherency is the key word:

  • Think of creating a graphic chart, a real visual identity and apply it to ALL of your tools.
  • Decide on the language, style and key message and stick to it.

Evaluate

Once your communication campaign has been launched and all selected tools implemented, a full evaluation scheme needs to be conducted in order to evaluate the efficiency of your external communication strategy and review it if necessary. External communication is not a one-off task. It belongs to the organisation’s life cycle, to the people who make up the organisation, and to the public to whom it speaks. And as such, it is alive.

 

The IFE Learning Lab Editorial Team

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