As this heat wave continues we’ve got our own internal campaign going on to try and keep the Claremont crew’s body temperatures below boiling point. In doing so it dawned on me that the strategies we’re using to keep cool actually share many similarities with some of the key approaches used in a successful communications strategy. Here goes…
First we have the ‘air con’ approach* to keeping cool.
This, if you like, is the type of communications activity that pleases the masses and reaches many. It keeps lots and lots of people happy (cool) and informed with one quick action. In communications terms this would translate as your above the line, broad-brush activity such as advertising on a national basis (think TV, billboards, press, radio, events) and although often the more expensive route it is a very effective way to build a foundation for delivering key messages, raise the profile of your campaign and get quick results in terms of reach.
This one size fits all ‘air con’ approach is undeniably a winner, however, adopting such large scale activity means not all audiences can be reached in a way that is necessarily appropriate for them. This approach can often overlook key groups of people, or worse, irritate them (much in the same way an air con unit can annoy people in the office – perhaps those with asthma or those sat next to the unit with the annoying squeaky noise). This could lead to lack of engagement in a campaign at a micro level therefore we need to think about other tactics to supplement this kind of activity if we’re going to engage all our audiences.
Next up is the ‘electric fan’ approach
To me, this bears resemblance to the process of stakeholder relations. Much like when you realise you only have one or two fans but lots of people in an office, this approach is ALL about forming targeted partnerships and reaching compromise in order to get your desired outcome. In a communications context this is about recognising the most suitable partners to help you spread your key messages to the right audience for your campaign. In a cooling off context it’s quite simply about sharing your fan with the right person!
This style of comms requires careful upfront consideration of who to approach, how to approach them, sufficient compromise and collaboration between all parties involved, and clear communication about what you all want out of the situation. With this you’re aiming for a mutually beneficial situation, such as ‘I want the fan on rotate so we both get a slice of the cool air’.
The result? This is a smaller scale approach and you’re reaching fewer people overall but you’re targeting them directly with specific key messages which helps you to ensure they are fully on board with the campaign. In turn partners (stakeholders) will be more likely to help you disseminate your campaign messages through their own audiences thus widening your reach.
But what about those hard to reach..?
Ice Lolly approach
This is where the ice lolly approach comes into its own, although as far as I’m concerned it should be at the core of all our work as this is all about understanding your audience(s) and offering them something they want in a way they want it. Crucial for any campaign, this should be a key consideration for anyone carrying out communications activity.
Think about it…you wouldn’t dare make a trip to the ice cream van on behalf of colleagues without a little bit of market research in the office first. You need to really discover what people want from a lolly.. so, do the same with a campaign. With any campaign you’ve got to unpick your audience: their behaviour; their needs; the things that make them tick. You’ve got to separate the ‘Feast fans’ from the ‘Magnum munchers’ and use that insight to develop micro-level communications activity that will engage them in the campaign. Get this right and you’re onto a good thing.
Most decent communications strategies for projects aiming to reach a range of audiences will adopt a tiered and integrated approach to cover all grounds therefore it isn’t unusual to think that you could have the air con on, fans blowing in a couple of corners and half the office eating ice lollies. This just means people are engaging in the campaign in the way that suits them.
*we don’t actually have air-con