Communications Planning: Mapping Out the Approach

We need to reach consumers through influencing them. Communications planning is more than just a way to get noticed by consumers; rather, it is a way to identify with, establish a relationship with, and retain those consumers that it influences with its media strategy.  This means that communications planners are more focused on understanding and reacting to consumers’ wants and needs instead of merely delivering a message. In essence, the way communications planners interact with and adapt to the consumers’ environment is to pull them in, instead of waiting for consumers to happen upon a message.  This means that social media professionals are an important part of the communications planning process, helping to take a brand and its message to multimedia, but we must first start with the consumer and mold our message from there. From that point, we can choose different channels for delivery of that message.

Communications planning relates to multiple channels in that there different channels provide varying ways for us to engage different consumers, some channels may reach only one particular audience demographic, or it may be reach consumers for a second, third, or fourth time on that channel. Having various multimedia channels provides flexibility and adaptability in creating your message, enabling you to be successful and diverse so long as your brand message remains consistent enough to be identifiable.  As Forrester’s CMO Dwight Griesman said in this Forbes article, “The most important element remains that customers want and expect a consistent experience across all of their touch points with companies and products.” In that same article, the author uses the example of a NYC law firm who uses traditional offline marketing opportunities such as lectures, and integrates them into multimedia through publishing them in the form of a news story and working with Google crawlers to encourage SEO. I frequently see law firms integrating communications in this manner, and on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.

Utilizing different channels means increasing engagement opportunities to influence and retain customers.  It takes 7 or so interactions with a potential consumer for them to notice the interactions and respond. The image that popped into my head for this lesson was of Mad Men, with Don Draper pouring over an advertisement, trying to come up with something creative to catch a reader’s eye. The other image that comes up is of our social media coordinator at UNC sitting in front of Twitter, trying to adapt her message to the platform in order to engage people.  I loved this article on making your brand human. In the article Jones points out that social networks have provided consumers with the ability to interact with brands, changing the landscape of communication from broadcasting to relationships between brands and consumers. As the author says, people expect reactions and emotions, they want brands to be human. He says you have to have different voices, that “you have to have an indoor voice; and a problem-solving voice; and a excited-you-just-made-our-day-voice; and a we-really-care-about-you voice. And every one of these voices has to express the core essentials of your brand personality.” Channels can have different voices, too.

I think that social media communications should still be very carefully planned. While our social media coordinator uses very different methods to reach consumers than Don Draper, their roles are still very much the same at the core- reaching consumers. Even though we can reach millions of people in a single moment with only a few dozen characters, that does not mean that the thought behind a single Tweet should be just as brief.  I think that communications planners need to account for the varying audience interactivity and feedback provided by various channels when integrating IMC. Facebook and Twitter are great for sharing messages and getting retweets while Instagram provides a great visual element, each channel has varying interactivity which can be harnessed to reach consumers to establish relationships. Relationships are a powerful thing, so too is integrated marketing communication and its planning process.

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