Your Five-Point MarComm and PR Plan
Reviewing my eight years with two development organizations managing communications, and comparing them with the same number of years heading marketing and communications for two revenue-based universities, these are my five must-have distillations for MarComm and PR.
1) Keep it under one umbrella.
Marketing, communications, and public relations are intrinsically connected and should fall under one department/individual’s responsibility. All three are best strategized, and their tactics best carried out, in cohesion, complementing each effort and action.
This is number one, because as logical as it may sound, I’ve seen the three divided in organizations, resulting in fragmented, ineffective communications that are often not well-timed, instead of straight core messaging delivered through all channels at the most effective time in the most effective way.
Which brings us to your brand’s tone of voice.
2) Keep it conversational.
Your target audiences may range in age, cultures, economic/educational backgrounds, and buying motivations, but they are all human beings. You are talking to a person. So, whether it’s advertising copy, web content, or a press release, keep the tone of voice conversational.
Talk to your customers. Your key messages should speak to them directly, addressing their need and offering a solution. All the SEO in the online world will not get you the right tone of voice. That comes from you, once you know your audience, your product, and the specific need it meets.
And for that, you need to know your brand inside out.
3) Know your unique selling proposition.
If you don’t know your USP, find it – every business has one, and sometimes more. Pick one that really stands out and then exploit it fully. Build narratives around it. Find key words that describe your USP and develop a tagline using those.
Keep it in your view, whether you are writing advertising copy or interacting with customers on social media, and weave it into your messages and responses. Find people who embody your USP, or the experience that it involves, and write about them. Better still, get them to write about your organization.
4) External endorsement resonates with customers.
Work hard on good PR: It gives integrity to your brand more than any paid advertising ever does. Develop a journalist’s nose for stories.
Aim for stories about people more than products – about their work and achievements, adding links to your product within the narrative. A brand perception shifts in customers’ minds slowly, drip by drip, and a news story with a strong narrative will make those drips go faster and thicker.
Consistent good PR affects how your brand is viewed (positively) and yet, just getting your brand name out there regularly in the form of media releases strengthens brand recall, which in turn helps bring the customer to you at the time of purchase decision.
Awareness, recall, association – follow the branding process.
5) Always keep your brand association in view.
Your brand isn’t just visual: logo, colors, fonts, designs, photographs, signages. Or oral and written: tone of voice, type of English (British or American), presentation of information.
It’s all of the above and more. It’s your products and what they do for the customer. It’s your staff (both front and back office) dealing with customers (both existing and potential) face-to-face or on the phone or via the multitude of digital means (e-mail, social media, web chats). It’s also your office building and facilities that a visitor may encounter. It’s the people associated with your brand who become your brand’s informal "ambassadors."
Every little thing matters here and contributes to what your brand is associated with. Desirable, value for investment, prestigious, must-have – what do you want your brand to be? Decide and work to fix the multiple, ever-changing customer touch points.
[Related: Diversity Marketing Matters to Your Audience]
Naheed Maalik is a Chartered Marketer from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK, with work experience in higher education and development sector marketing, PR, branding, and communications. After almost twenty years as head of marketing and communications for the Red Cross, the British Council, University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), and Canadian University Dubai (CUD), she now runs The Loop, a marketing and communications agency.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
I am a Chartered Marketer from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK, with work experience in higher education and development sector marketing, PR, branding and communications. After close to twenty years of working as head of marketing and communications at the Red Cross, the British Council, University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) and lastly Canadian University Dubai (CUD), I now run The Loop, a marketing and communications agency with my business partner Rachel Lloyd. We... Continue Reading
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