I’d wager that as well as time spent creating content, a lot of time is taken up by comms peeps advising others on how communications can, or cannot, help to solve a particular challenge.
All too often, customers come armed with a solution predetermined, and, while it can be easy to let the creative juices takeover and accept their concept, it is important at this point to apply the brakes – firmly if necessary – and remind them to think first about the problem they’re trying to solve rather than the channel, platform or piece of comms they believe will solve it.
“Come to us with a problem, not a solution” is something that is certainly part of our comms’ mantra and you’d do well to add it to yours if not already.
I was recently approached and asked for help in either filming, or facilitating the filming, of a conference to then make the event available for viewing to those who couldn’t attend.
While this is a good idea in principle, our experience shows that these after-the-matter films are rarely viewed by those who didn’t attend.
So, the advice the customer was given was to think about how else the conference could be presented. For example, get one, or several, of the attendees to write a blog post – perhaps with self taken images; or ask the presenter to make their slides available on Slideshare and linked to from a website which provides some context.
There were others but I think you get my drift – getting the customer to think about the problem (in this case making a presentation appealing to an audience that wasn’t there) rather than accepting a predetermined solution is vital.
I hear what you’re saying; “This is common sense”, and it is, but all too often I see examples of where a solution has been accepted too fast, without proper consideration and the final product doesn’t match the brief and everyone’s time and resource is wasted.
Now, the first question I ask of a customer is, what is it we’re actually trying to achieve here. Not purely in a comms sense but more generally. Getting customers to go back to the basics – what is it here you are trying to achieve, who is your audience, how is what we do going to help and how are we going to measure whether it’s a success or not.
I was lucky enough recently to see this approach echoed on a grander scale when on a visit to the Two Four Productions offices in Plymouth on a South West Public Relations Officers digital marketing workshop.
Led by Two Four’s Head of Content Strategy, Howard Gregory, the session was a masterclass in how content should be pre-planned, created, delivered, integrated, measured and evaluated and how each story, each campaign, will have its own factors that drive the best way to do this.
In essence, Howard told us, the Two Four digital content department adheres to Three Simple Rules:
1) Link clearly to your comms strategy
2) Understand your audience (keep up to date as it changes)
3) Create a clear and engaging story
But much further than that, he went on to share the company’s guiding content principles which help to ensure that as comms professionals, we are always thinking about the wider problem and not just the solution.
This breaks each customer problem into five key stages:
Audit: Understand your aims - What are we doing – What’s the vision and strategy
Insight: Analyse your audience - Demographic insight, preferred engagement
Develop: Plan activities and how to tell the story - Channel mix, develop narrative
Execute: Create compelling content - Design, deliver on time and budget
Evaluate: Measure, learn and plan - ROI, Quantitative and qualitative, Plan for the future
These five stages - what you learn from step 5, Evaluate, should be fed back into the process between Audit and Insight – should become a key tool for every comms’ team’s strategy and approach.
After all, if they work for a massively successful, international content and broadcast company then they should also work for us. And with a bit of forethought they can help achieve a great solution to the next customer problem that happens to come your way.