Strategic communications are an essential offering from integrated agencies, encompassing such elements as comprehensive stakeholder outreach, editorial direction, and analytics measurement that can point the way forward.
But over the past three years, how this offering is understood and accessed has changed significantly. Communications services are finally being accessed for the whole of their capabilities, and are bolstering company content needs from the ground up. This progress is tremendous news for businesses and communications professionals, but note: it’s just the beginning of the service realizing its true connective potential.
This year, the sixth annual PRWeek/Cision Global Comms Report highlighted this rise of strategic communications and content creation in the overall operation of a business. Throughout their comprehensive breakdown, the report’s authors pointed to various takeaways that will help refine tactics throughout the communications industry—including within our operations at The Martin Group.
Here are three takeaways we found particularly insightful, with each informing the work we’re currently doing for our list of local and global clients.
Working closely with the C-suite—finally
In recent years, there has been a breakthrough in the presence of strategic communications in the C-suite. As a result of managing a global pandemic, responding to social issues and navigating other tricky areas, top executives have become receptive to the role communications can play in companies’ overall business strategies—and not a minute too soon.
Communications professionals have a role in activating the considerable amount of persuasive power nestled in the C-suite, one of an organization’s most powerful sources to inform consumers. According to the PRWeek/Cision Global Comms Report, 31% of global respondents cited executives as their top influencer in determining which brands they should support (compared to 41% for celebrities), especially in the realm of financial services (46%) and tech (44%). The report also revealed that customers want to build relationships with companies they trust.
These numbers indicate that customers are more likely to support a brand if they feel executives are transparent and authentic, and demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility. More frequently, especially over the past two years, The Martin Group has been working with clients eager to amplify their executives, and in turn, strengthen this needed connection with customers. Through the development of comprehensive public relations plans—led by the creation of thought leadership, sponsored content, and curated content as well as strategic placement of executives in key speaking and media opportunities—we’ve raised the public profile of C-suite members across various industries.
And by introducing diverse, insightful perspectives through this executive-led content, we’re answering strategic communications needs—and having an impressive impact on hard business numbers that affect the bottom line.
Employing an integrated approach to analytics
According to the report, “The work of strategic communicators has always been based on human relationships and creativity. However, the discipline has long trailed other corporate functions in their embrace of and ability to best take advantage of data and analytics.”
Details from this year’s Cision findings indicate those days are over.
One in four global respondents in the report cited content ideation, strategy, and creation as the single-most important function when they consider using analytics-measuring tech tools in their PR/communications efforts. (Closely behind was measuring impact/ROI of PR efforts at 21%.) Analytics are being used to strengthen anecdotal details about a company or brand, providing solid mathematical support to back up these flowery assertions—and this is a positive. Not only does this help build credibility with an audience, but this combination of statistics and story provides the C-suite with an engaging story they’d like to lead.
Over the past year, this has helped our communications and analytics professionals to collaborate on content that tells a bigger story about a company’s progress and plans. Whether interspersing numbers on geographic poverty rates with the personal stories of a nonprofit, or leaning into positive statistics to tell a story of the impact of healthcare services, this amalgamation of numbers and narrative is now an essential tool in any communications plan, and its use should only continue to expand.
Keeping companies in the conversation
Throughout the recent shift in how strategic communications are utilized, companies and brands have recognized the importance of participating in conversations—whether online, in the media or elsewhere—about trends or topics that align with their operations or mission.
In many cases, these trends or topics can allow companies to highlight a variety of machinations associated with their operations, but can also allow them to highlight supplemental aspects—like DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion), ESG (environmental, social, governance), or other employee-related matters—to build a deeper connection with their communities.
Throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the constraints of our world brought about a feeling of disconnection. This translated to the relationship between businesses and consumers as well. Both sides were desperate to reclaim this connection; through this need, an opportunity arose for companies to tell a deeper story not just about their operations, but about their place in the complicated conversations of the day.
Now, this element of communication has become a critical tactic we use in social media and thought leadership content, op-ed development, sponsored content creation, and more: 43% of communicators polled for this year’s PRWeek/Cision Global Comms Report listed “ideate and create compelling content” as one of their most valued tools, and this value continues to rise. Depending on the client—be it managing the financial needs of their customers in a fiscally volatile economy or answering the call during an environmental disaster with important healthcare equipment for impacted communities—we’ve sought to pronounce their roles as business and community leaders, each vital to answering the concerns of their followers as customers and neighbors. Accessing this dichotomy can allow an organization’s brand voice to flourish. Without doing so, their voice can be muted, and they may lose their spot in a conversation they absolutely need to be a part of—and in some cases, leading.
This shouldn’t happen. But thankfully, with the heightened and ever-diversifying role of strategic comms, it doesn’t have to.
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