I am a bit of a research nerd. A lot of strategy work I undertake for customers is grounded in data and insights. Why is this so important?

A lot of communication is for communication’s sake, and in a world where we are all overwhelmed with content more than ever, we should focus on what matters and why. Only producing communication that supports our business or purpose (or both)

So today I wanted to share with you why you should be planning your communication activity and not sailing into it hoping for a happy accident.

You will learn

– Why research is important to set yourself up to succeed

– How communication is a support function of your business 

– Why goal setting is important

Links mentioned in this episode:

Are you a goal digger?


Tax Made Easy


The Used Kitchen Company


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Full Transcript (unedited)

Hello, and welcome to this episode of Communication Strategy That Works with me Emma Drake. Hi everyone. I hope everyone is doing okay today. I wanted to talk to you today about why I think that effective communication it isn’t a happy accident. You do have to put some effort in and you do have to try super hard to get results. I’m a bit of a research nerd truth be told, and a lot of strategy work I undertake for customers is grounded in data and insights. So why is this important? Well, a lot of communication is for communication’s sake, isn’t it? We will get asked to do things and we work on projects, which doesn’t really feel that strategic. Well, in a world where we’re overwhelmed with lots of communication and content and messages more than ever, we should be really trying hard to focus down on what matters and why.

And only producing communication activity that supports our business or purpose or both. So today I wanted to share with you why you should be planning your communication activity and not sailing into the distance hoping for it to be a happy accident that it’s a success. You will learn why research is important to set yourself up to succeed, how communication is a support function of your entire business and why goal setting is so important. So let’s dive in.

Well, planning is important for a number of reasons and they’re all interlinked in my opinion. It helps us focus down on what is important and how to prioritize. It encourages a longer term view, which forces us to look ahead rather than what needs doing, what needs to go out the door today or right now. And it helps us demonstrate value for money. If you have no idea what you’re doing and why, how do you know it’s been a success? I think the other thing is it makes us more efficient at our job and it gives us a benchmark you see for measurements. So any task on top of what we need to be done that’s extra, isn’t it? So that gets dropped if it doesn’t really need doing. So we actually become more efficient at doing what needs doing and is the most important stuff to do.

So I’m running through three points today that underpin a planned approach to what you do and how you do it. Firstly, research is really important. It’s a really important part of the planning process and often missed or skipped through. And this can include everything from searching blogs and online literature, to news articles, to stakeholder interviews, to a SWAT analysis. That’s something that measures your strengths, your weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And focus groups or informal research. If you’re about to launch a new product, then undertaking some customer research or conducting a survey of your own is a really good way to gain some insights into your particular sector or product. One of surveys can actually be really accessible as well. If you’re in the UK, if the UK wide survey or you are selling UK wide and you have some big questions to ask the public.

So with a few hundred pounds really, you can get some really interesting results piggybacking on something like the omnibus survey here in the UK for example. So I like to use a combination of desk-based research and paid research to further test the questions and ideas for communication approach for clients before we launch into the communication of marketing program. Now this can include looking at all types of existing published research, and pretty much most things have been researched or surveyed at some point, right? So sources such as government data or city departments, councils, industry reports or the media can provide background insight on your audience or their particular perception pick. This is a great way to get started on a topic. And also it’s a relatively low cost if you do it yourself. If you need specialist help, something that I specialize in for construction and property companies for example, as part of the planning process because I know the sector, then it can cost you a little bit more than you doing it yourself obviously.

Informal data gathering can also be really important and low cost actually. So contacting a few people you’ve worked with or in your audience or groups or forums you’re in is a really good way to get informal feedback on a set of questions and idea maybe or to test some sort of proposition that you’re working on. A word of caution with any research you conduct yourself, it needs to be statistically significant if you’re using it as a rule of thumb for the entire population or a group of people. So organizations like Omnibus, [inaudible 00:04:55] and others, big research companies like Mintel for example, will do this for you and make sure that that’s the case. But you can get some really good indicative research using these methods that I have mentioned.

So secondly, communication program should support what you’re doing as a business and not just be for communication’s sake. So what do I mean by that? Well, one approach is to focus on one idea or product and really hone in on how you can best support the business with communication activity to support that. So trying to be all things to all people it just isn’t a great approach and it can lead to overwhelm really quickly and not really knowing what’s working and what’s not working in the rush to get out. Yes you need to be consistent, but you also need to be consistent in the right area that will give you the most impact not everywhere necessarily. Especially in a scale-up business or a growing business when budget and resources are tight, defined, or maybe time limited. And referring back to the efficiency point I made earlier with just keeping up with communicating with customers and not really sure why then it’s likely we won’t have results.

So for example, my communication strategy for my business focuses a lot around LinkedIn and my podcast. Now I focus on these two things ultimately as they help me achieve my goals in business and support the work that I do to an audience that’s interested.

So thirdly, and I’ve just hinted at this a little bit too, it’s goal setting. I talk much more about this in I think it’s episode three, but I will put that in the show notes for you. Having a purpose or a goal is something I talk about a lot. And the reason is that it focuses the mind on what’s important and gives us a framework within which to reason with ourselves about what work needs to be done and why. And communication that supports the business and goal setting is intrinsically linked to this. For example, if I’m about to launch a new online sales product, then I will make sure my content up to and around that time will focus on the sale of that product or topics related to that product.

If a client was going to be talking at an event about an area that they’re a thought leader in, that’s where the content program we’re focused on in the run-up to that event and all around that time during that time, and actually after the event had happened. Now, where this gets tricky is where businesses grow and competing demands come from various people and parts of the business. And I know I’ve been there, I’ve worked in house, I’ve worked in busy teams and it’s tricky. But without a goal you’ve got nowhere to kind of go back to. You’ve got no starting point to counteract any requests for anything else to be done in your own workload or in the wider workload. And without a goal it’s gratuitous communication. So it won’t be linked to supporting the business or be overly effective really. If we can embed this way of working really early on, then there tends to be much more productive activity and the results will be rolling in.

Some of my own work has been shortlisted for PR and marketing awards here in the UK. And you’ll see if you read them, I’ve put some links in the show notes, there’s some on my website. If you read them there is a clear goal. There’s research is carried out to test the thought or idea or uncover a need. And there’s a focus plan of engagement to hit that goal. But don’t just take my word for it, okay? There’s lots of really interesting award-winning examples out there. Quick Books did a campaign about the government making tax digital and this was a huge change in tax legislation in the UK. But then they realized actually there was quite a low take-up in that part of their business leading up to the change. So they did a campaign that really looked to raise awareness and help businesses through that process so that they were trusted software partner. It’s a fiercely competitive market, but through data and research, they uncovered the numbers and designed a process to make it easy for people to complete the tax online.

Another example is from the CIPR Excellence Awards and it was around recycling. And it worked really, really well. And I think the desktop research I’ve put the link in the show notes for the desktop research uncovered a report which led to the campaign idea. It was a Def report around how many people recycle and it led to clear objectives being able to be set around trying to change opinions around kitchen recycling. And the campaign focused around also generating business growth and sales, but around encouraging more homeowners to embrace recycling. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode today. You have learned why research is important to set yourself up to succeed. How communication is a support function for your business and why goal setting is important. So I’ll just say bye for now and see you next time.

So finally, thank you for listening to this episode of Communication Strategy That Works. Don’t forget to check my show notes for those links that I mentioned. And I’d really love it if you would subscribe to my podcast and leave me a review. And also if you think there’s someone that could benefit from listening to this podcast, please share this within your networks. So I’ll just say bye for now and see you next time.