The Strategy Utility Belt
In our last blog we discussed our take on the value of research. So now that you’ve done your research and you know something about your audience, be it their knowledge level, perceptions about your organization, or an issue affecting it, it’s time to craft a plan for increasing that knowledge, altering those perceptions, or affecting a behavior.
There are often a myriad of ways for organizations to maximize the outcome they’re hoping to achieve, but in our experience, relying on a single approach, a single tactic, isn’t the advisable path to maximize the impact of your message.
An advertising campaign built on the most creative whizz-bang idea may sound great on paper and look even better on storyboards. A pure public affairs initiative targeting the movers and shakers may seem like the most direct route to change. A media relations push can be a powerful way to generate a positive buzz people can trust.
Yet to achieve something as powerful as altering a perception or reinforcing a change in behavior, any one of these strategies on its own is rarely up to the task. Sometimes you can see this play out (a startup restaurant you’ve noticed launching a social media blitz with coupons and promotions galore but no coverage or reviews in local publications) and sometimes you can’t (when a public issue never reaches your ears because of a community relations campaign targeting audiences too narrowly with no media push behind it).
With the average person exposed to over 1,600 messages per day*, it’s wishful thinking that your message can get through, much less make a lasting impact, with only one vessel to deliver it. Most research agrees that a passive listener needs to hear a message about 7 times before it even registers.**
Hence the integrated approach.
At DHC, we pull from a tactical utility belt that would make Batman blush. Branding, advertising and media buys, crisis communications plans, media and community relations outreach, public affairs—together these strategies and more complement each other and reinforce a message across multiple mediums capable of producing a change in perception or behavior.
Without an integrated strategy, we never would have been able to increase enrollment in children’s medical programs by more than 90,000 in Washington State during our Healthy Kids Now! campaign. We utilized press conferences, media kits distributed to targeted outlets across Washington, a PSA campaign featuring TV, radio and print, and a slew of collateral materials to make the message as visible as possible and reinforce it via multiple sources.
And we certainly aren’t the only ones making use of integrated campaigns. Who hasn’t seen the Old Spice Guy? Well that campaign isn’t limited to TV and print ads, it’s one of the biggest social media campaigns of all time thanks to a team of writers constantly monitoring and responding to posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and beyond. They also launched efforts with promotional events at concerts and major outdoor events targeted by Old Spice. Did that work? The Old Spice YouTube channel became the all time most viewed in history and by December 2010 sales were up 107%. Certainly speaks to the power of social media as a campaign element.
But you don’t have to be a company the size of Old Spice to make use of an integrated approach. Here in Spokane, Community Frameworks has done great work educating the public about their work building families affordable housing. It’s taken a combination of highly targeted media relations, community partnerships, ad campaigns like the memorable “Do you have one?” that decorated Spokane billboards in the summer of 2009, and a host of specialized collateral for their many events.
So how do we decide what combination of strategies is the right combination to employ?
To start with, your audience just told you. If you took the time to conduct research with them, one of the questions you were sure to ask was about how they get information about you and from what sources. The answer to this question will inform which channels you use to communicate with them.
There isn’t a textbook formula to arrive at the ideal tactical mix, but it’s often informed by factors like the composition of your audience, the nature and scope of the message, and the budget you’re constrained by, forcing you to prioritize.
When our team sets out to craft the most defined message and effective integrated strategy, we utilize just that—our team. Our campaign plans are often the product of group brainstorms involving a whiteboard, lots of laughs from cornball ideas that lead to the golden ones, and caffeine in all its wondrous forms (DHC does not condone drug use to generate ideas). Having used all the aforementioned tactics and more for every type of communications campaign you can imagine is what gives us the necessary insight to continue crafting the most relevant and powerful integrated campaigns for clients.
I’ll leave you with a few final tips for generating ideas that I’ve learned in my many brainstorm sessions at DHC:
- There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm (unless you’re in our large conference room with Andrei—but that’s another story).
- Even when you think you’ve got the winning approach, remember to step back from the process and look at things from a big picture standpoint. It’s easy to get mired in the detail and forget the overall campaign goal.
- Prioritize your budget: don’t stretch it too thin over multiple mediums just for the sake of having an integrated approach. It’s more important that you dedicate enough budget to the medium that best reaches your audience.
- Go with your gut, but go with your audience’s gut more. Always remember who the message is intended to reach and affect!
*2010 Neilson Report
**Michael J. Naples, Effective Frequency