Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos once famously quipped: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. Wise words but how do you create and control a brand that sparks positive conversations, especially in organisations with a complex set of messages?
We operate in a world where perception is at least as important as reality – and where competitors, offering ostensibly the same product or service, vie for attention. The question of how your brand is perceived and what makes it compelling needs to be challenged and imaginatively revitalised.
Just as an architect starts with a blueprint to define design and structure, a brand demands an underlying structure and rationale. The objective is clarity and control – a consistent basis for decision making and a means of ensuring co-ordination and consistency across the different strands of your programme. It enables you to organise business priorities and objectives into strategic drivers or pillars, which flow upwards to one high-level goal or purpose. Relevant initiatives can then be housed beneath the corresponding pillars.
Ultimately, a communications framework aligns messaging, guides actions, outlines steps to achieve your overarching goals, and creates KPIs for real-world evaluation. It’s also a great opportunity to take a step back and think critically about your existing messaging and tactics – if they are not aligned to your overarching goal, it’s time to question whether you should be doing them at all.
So, when faced with a complex set of business messages and objectives, how do you identify and activate the ones which will set you apart?
LISTEN TO YOUR AUDIENCE
In an ideal world no business should construct a communications framework in isolation. The bigger the brand, the greater the need to be brave and conduct a strategic review of your programme. To do this you need to listen to your stakeholders, your customers and your staff. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know how your brand is viewed by your target audience, but often research can reveal that those important messages that set you apart aren’t actually cutting through into the market.
For smaller organisations, this in-depth assessment can seem like the art of the possible, but it’s important to remember that this investment is an invaluable way of creating the building blocks to create your communications framework.
This is one of the reasons Influential developed an Insights division as part of our integrated offering. We can help businesses listen and understand how they are perceived by their core audiences – both internal and external. In-depth research often takes the form of interviews with stakeholders, focus groups with core customers, as well as wider awareness analysis of audience groups. Collectively this data creates a comprehensive understanding of how your brand is viewed and whether audiences understand and relate to your messaging.
Use this information to pinpoint your final set of core messages which forms the basis of your framework. Arrange these into pillars and then do a thorough audit of existing activity and initiatives to see how they align to each. We have found it is common for companies to have a handful of programs, which were created in isolation or against tight deadlines, and as such don’t reflect the overarching goals or purpose of the business.
CLARITY, BEFORE CREATIVITY
Your high-level goal and messaging needs to be clear and easy to understand. Of course it need to be engaging and inspirational, but ultimately you have to strike that all-important balance between creativity and clarity.
Developing a compelling proposition, which sums up what your brand stands for in a few words, is essential. But make sure your audience can easily understand and interpret what you are trying to say – or it’s likely your messaging will get lost.
If you’re not sure you’ve struck the right balance – put it to the test. Tell a friend or independent party your overarching purpose and ask them to explain what it means. If they can’t recite it back to you easily (without having to repeat it word for word) you might want to take another look.
BRINGING YOUR BLUEPRINT TO LIFE
Now that you have streamlined your company’s messaging into a strategic framework, you can create impactful communications campaigns. To get audiences to adopt your messaging, populate your plan with exciting, engaging and relevant ideas.
The key is to create communications campaigns – rather than one-off tactics – which are driven directly from your strategic drivers or pillars. Initiatives shouldn’t just be ‘add on’ activities, they need to be fundamental to achieving the company’s overall mission. This will help your audience embrace your brand, your messaging and build brand loyalty. Make sure internal teams wholeheartedly adopt your new business objectives and ensure that every initiative, no matter how big or small, relates back to them.
But remember, a successful communications framework is not simply a list of tactics. Start with the big picture and aspirational vision for the brand and build backwards. That will deliver a blueprint which leads to consistent messaging, strategic focus and a clear plan for future growth.
Influential provides communication strategy and creates compelling narratives for businesses and stakeholders across the built environment. We are working on some of the UK’s most impactful regeneration projects. Please get in touch below if you’d like to collaborate.
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