Five ways to create a successful corporate communications and reputation management strategy

Content marketing specialist Shelley Hoppe ponders the missing traits to business strategies.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been meeting with large companies who are not my clients to get a general sense of what they are working on, and what their current communications priorities, goals and challenges are. I love to do this from time to time without the pressure of so-called “sales conversations”. Sometimes, you just need to talk to people for the sake of learning about what’s going on.

I know what my own business pain points are, but what’s keeping other people awake at night? While talking to people, I spotted a bit of a trend: clients are interested in how to use social media content in particular for corporate communications and reputation management. Sure, some brands are already all over this and doing a great job of translating these kinds of messages into high quality, goal-oriented, engaging brand content – but a lot of companies just haven’t got there yet. And I can really understand why that might be: these more ‘traditional’ parts of the communications mix are also more cautious, weary of sticking their proverbial heads above the parapet.

There’s another factor at play here too. The content machine is hungry and all-consuming. In their rush to become publishers, brands have hired lots and lots of brilliant editors to help them create the vast amount of brand storytelling that’s needed in business today. But brilliant editors don’t necessarily understand corporate communications strategy. And in smaller companies, perhaps the need to think about this sort of content has not yet occurred – but as they grow, they need it more and more.

Somewhere along the way, some crucial skills have been lost. Still, no need to despair – here are some top tips on how to get your corporate communications content strategy and plan up and running, and making a valuable contribution to your reputation management efforts.

Keep it simple – the rocks and sand approach
Plan out your “big-ticket” items first. There’s a good analogy to think of when planning your overall corporate communications content for the year – you may have heard the story about the teacher who gave a lecture about the importance of not cramming your ‘jar of life’ with small rocks and sand, leaving no room for larger rocks. For our communications planning purposes, the small rocks and sand represent the smaller, ad hoc, day-to-day reactive things that are always popping up and need to be dealt with, but which don’t actually help you build the strategic narrative that you want. The larger rocks are the more important strategic priorities, like emphasising your wider corporate social responsibility efforts or showcasing how you support and nurture staff or your local community in some way. If we fill our jar of life with the smaller rocks and sand first, there is no room for the larger rocks in the jar – they simply won’t fit. However, if we prioritise the larger rocks and put them in the jar before adding the sand and small rocks, we guarantee that the things that are most important to us don’t get left behind. So when you’re building your calendar – get the things you want to talk about in the calendar first!

Balancing messages
There’s no such thing as a person or an organisation that’s never made a mistake or got something wrong. On the other hand, there are also plenty of examples of false accusations flying around. This is why it’s good to have your steady drumbeat of messages about what you are doing going out regularly. You can’t stop things going wrong – that will always happen. But you can make sure you’re presenting a more rounded picture of your organisation, so people can also see what’s going right.

Some storytelling ideas you could be using
Sometimes, we forget to tell our most important stories because we think they’re “too internal” and might not be of interest to the outside world. But we’re living in a world where the ‘internal’ is taking on increasing importance. Do you have an internal training programme that transforms some of your employees’ lives? A charity that your business supports directly or indirectly? A passion for changing your processes to make them more environmentally-friendly, or innovative in some other way? A history or legacy that you’re proud of and frequently celebrate with staff and customers? If so, these are all things that you could and arguably should be communicating about, to show off a more rounded picture of what your business is. The fact is, your customers probably would be interested.

Don’t be too reactive
On to the “sandy” messages: yes, things will pop up that you should respond to. But there’s no point in engaging in negative tit for tat. Work out what your position is; if you have a made a mistake, own up, apologise and explain how you will put it right. And then – move on.

 Measure what works
Just like any other part of your communications strategy, you should be measuring which of your reputation content stories land particularly well with your audience. What’s helping you to tell your story and connect with your audiences?

Shelley Hoppe is the Agency Director of the London branch of the Spoon content marketing agency. TPP’s partnership with Spoon now brings bespoke B2B, corporate communications and reputation management services of an international standard to South Africa. For further information on any of these aspects for your business get in touch.

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