Communications Strategy. Along with the announcement of the comic strip, we organized for small “town hall” events where people could chat with our iMMAP program leaders and/or the cartoonist to talk about their process, what they knew about the situation in Afghanistan, and other things they knew.
Here’s a little video clip I shot and edited in while on vacation in Mexico a few years back. It was a lot of fun. I scraped by with my Spanish to learn about the process, leaned over folks with my snapshot camera to get the shot, and then sat on the balcony of my hotel room editing the different shots. (Any video pro will note I used iMovie and one of its templates to make quick work of the project. I think it took me about four hours to edit.)
My husband, a cigar aficionado who stumbled on this factory in Cancún, spent a day rolling cigars with some of the best. I remember them saying their best guys roll between 80 – 100 consistently good cigars a day. My husband managed to eek out 10 in eight hours. About seven in ten rollers were Cuban–real pros who practically grew up in the trade. The others were Mexican. (In the video clip, only one of the four was Mexican–and he was competing in cigar-rolling events.)
What I love most about communications is the storytelling aspect involved. I like to share something I learned.
When I was working at Akaku: Maui Community Television, “How-To” videos were often used to teach the filmmaking process. Because it has clear steps, like a recipe, it’s easy to determine a beginning, middle and an end, much like a good story.
In journalism and creative writing, figuring this out can actually pose a bit more of a challenge, but it is essential to communicating effectively no matter what the medium.
Most of the time when people write email newsletters, they freeze as they sit in front of their computer screen. Their writing gets stilted and jargony. (It happens to me, too.) 🙂
When this happens to me, I believe it is because I do not have a clear image of what I want to accomplish with my communiqué.
A friend of mine — an executive coach — who was pulling together a leadership workshop in Zurich, turned to me for a little editing assistance.
But as she talked to me some more about her idea, I began to consult with her on using the email as an opportunity to develop a better understanding around her communications strategy.
Why does what I do matter to the people I’m reaching out to?
We defined her primary audience for this workshop as people who were already familiar with her work: current and past clients, or people connected to clients (referrals). These are people who are willing to invest the time and resources to work on their own growth — to optimize their leadership situation. Because the bottom line is: people don’t relate to “businesses” as such, they relate with the people that build those businesses. (In the case of brands, they relate with what those brands personify.)
Our main goal was to make sure the email represented my friend (and therefore her business) The email was only the first step in what has grown into a clear path. Today, I can see how our conversations about communications strategy has anchored all her materials with images and language that reflect her business authentically. (Check out her website and see how she uses images symbolizing height and depth to communicate her areas of coaching speciality.)
Tactics Rooted in Strategy
First, we used an email management tool (MailChimp) so we could create an email piece that would reflect her professionalism and also provide valuable information about how her contacts engaged with her material. We wanted her contacts to not only:
learn about the workshop, including time, date, and location,
understand how such a workshop would address their problems and fulfil their needs, but also to
have all the details right at their fingertips. (They could download important sign-up forms, or share with other friends and contacts, or send an email by simply clicking a button.)
Understanding how people engage
More importantly, on the backend of the mailer she could see how people engaged with the material. And engage they did. Yes, some people clicked on a hyperlink or a photo, but several people actually took the time to write emails… to her personally.
Several people emailed her with their own experiences of rising to a leadership position and feeling disconnected with their teams and coworkers. They were providing her with important insight about what issues they wanted to address. They were reaching out to her for two-way communication.
They were demonstrating they felt her email missive reached out to them directly.
It’s no secret that photographs are extremely effective communications pieces. I knew that my client enjoyed snapshot photography. We found some of her photographs that symbolized some of the problems we were addressing (“Lonely at the top”?), as well as the solution to that problem (an image of my friend among a group of friends on a ski slope).
In the end, we had developed an emailer we both felt authentically represented who she was and what she offered.
And that’s what marketing communications is really about — it’s stepping away from the mask of jargon and presenting oneself clearly and authentically.