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When thinking of communications, the focus can rest on flashy PR campaigns that generate a sizeable amount of coverage. And when the impact of the first campaign withers away another campaign is formulated create another wave of recognition!

Effective communications is about sustaining a momentum that builds, elevates or maintains the organization’s profile and help it achieve its business goals. Here is an ABCD (and E!) approach to make it happen:

Step 1: Align– understand what is your organization trying to achieve (business goals), where did communications fail or succeed in the past and what could be done better.

Step 2: Build– develop your plan to take you where you want to be and set metrics. Prepare the messages, content and formalize your processes.

Step 3: Communicate– engage with your audience and convey your message in their own language using tactics that they can relate to and channels they trust!

Step 4: Discover– did your message resonate! Did it manage to shape or change perceptions? Research in the form of audits, surveys or focus groups can tell you!

Step 5: Evaluate– revisit your plan, messages and tactics to bridge any gaps identified in the previous stage and engage again.

Communication is an ongoing dialogue between an organization and its stakeholders and never a stand-alone monologue!

It should be looked at as an organic function that adapts to the organisation’s evolution, market change, stakeholders’ perceptions and community needs.

– Tania Atallah, Account Director at H+K Strategies, Dubai

It’s widely recognised that the PR industry has long suffered a reputation challenge of its own. After all, it’s not rocket science, right? Anyone can do it! And we see this reflected at times when we go to meet a prospective client only to find that the receptionist or office administrator has been tasked with managing the agency with a brief to get the company into the press.

Aside from the appreciation for what a solid communications strategy can do for a company, this sets alarm bells ringing over the perception of how important the company takes its reputation, regardless of industry and scale. It’s not just the big brands that need to think about their stakeholders’ perception of the business. The potential commercial opportunities brought to any organization that attracts a fresh injection of capital, opens up new markets or strengthens partnerships, can open the door to new level of growth.

This begs the question, how many organizations that we work with truly position communications – or more importantly, reputation management – as a priority at the boardroom table?

Around this table the C-level executives may be more concerned with shareholders, profit and loss, and market performance than what the PR team is doing. But at the end of the day, success in these areas of business stem from the strength of reputation and relationships that a company holds with its groups of stakeholders, or ‘publics’. These are segmented and defined groups, with specific motivations, drivers and opinions that “big PR” is less likely to have influence over. It requires an approach that strategically considers the priorities of individuals and the actions it aims to inspire.

Influencer engagement that reaches beyond media to analysts, bloggers, investors and industry leaders too often represents a missed opportunity in the Middle East market. However, this is how investment in reputation and communication can extend beyond traditional media to reach new influential heights with the company’s proposition and message.

This more targeted approach is highly effective in engaging specific publics in a less crowded and noisy environment than that offered through the media. Engagement strategies and specialist forums that provide an opportunity for connecting to partners, investors and advisors more directly can elevate the ‘issue’ of communications to garner boardroom support and more closely relate impact to business success.

As with any boardroom discussion, however, the proof lies in the bottom line. Being taken seriously in this forum means application of business-led measurement criteria that shows a clear return on investment for the organization. Measurement on the ‘thud factor’ no longer applies and message resonance is hard to pin down to a dollar value. The C-suite discussion needs to capture influence, investment and profit in hard currency through business growth and opportunity such as new sales leads, value from alliances and the results of investing in reputation campaigns.

So, think again about the value that reputation management has in the boardroom of the organizations that engage your counsel. Adding real business value is the only way to shift our own reputation in this inner circle, and the best way for communications to earn its place at the table.

– Katy Branson, Head of Technology UAE at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

When the stars are aligned for a business, it gets on what I call a “messaging run.” It happens when the business model is working almost perfectly, and the company itself is on a high.

But it does not happen all that much. How often can any company executive tell you with crystal clarity and confidence just what it is the company is there to do? Consumer preferences can change overnight. Today’s favorite is quickly forgotten. Business models are always evolving and because of this a company needs to evolve its messaging in line with those changing models.

Having a winning business model makes getting the messaging right a lot easier. But what we all need to keep in mind is that a business model firing on all cylinders is a rare thing indeed. For a select few companies, success seems to always be there, lasting decades if not longer. Most corporate successes, however (where those stars are all aligned), come and go.

But regardless of whether things are black or white or grey, it is sticking to the basics that will help us get the messaging as right as it can be. Dig deep to understand the company’s business objectives – whether crystal clear or not – and do understand how the customer thinks.

Ultimately, comms needs to work closely with the senior executives. While typically the feeling was that this was not happening enough, things are changing. Public relations and marketing departments are coordinating more and more with the top brass, and fair to say that the best comms professionals are themselves now considered part of the senior executive team, selected for their roles because they understand and appreciate the complexities and challenges of the business world.

We should regularly remind ourselves that getting the messaging just right is no easy task. It is a highly strategic undertaking that needs to be viewed as an ongoing one – part of the workflow. It is a mix of both art and science, and it is the foundation on which all successful campaigns are built.

– Alex Ionides, General Manager at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

وضع الرسائل الصحيحة

عندما تجتمع كافة العناصر اللازمة لأي عمل، نحصل حينها على ما نسمّيه “إنتشار الرسائل”، ويتمّ ذلك عندما يقارب نموذج العمل المثالية والشركة على مستوى عال من الفعالية.

لكنّ هذا لا يحدث غالباً. فكم مرة قام أحد المسؤولين في الشركة بالتحدث اليك بكل وضوح وثقة عن أعمال الشركة؟ وماذا ستقدم لك بالضبط؟ يجب توقع تغيير أذواق المستهلكين في كل لحظة، وما يفضلونه اليوم قد يتغير غداً. فنماذج الأعمال تتطور بشكل دائم، لذلك يجب على الشركة أن تقوم بتطوير رسائلها كي تتماشى مع هذه النماذج المتغيرة.

انّ وجود نموذج عمل ناجح يجعل من السهل علينا صياغة رسائل الشركة. ولكن يجب أن ندرك أن وجود نموذج عمل يتماشى مع مختلف الظروف أمر نادر جداً. وبالنسبة للشركات، فإن عدداً قليلاً منها يحظى بفترات نجاح طويلة تستمر لعقود، وربما لفترات أطول، ولكن السؤال هنا: هل قامت الشركات الناجحة بجمع جميع عناصر العمل معاً، أم انها كانت تظهر وتختفي؟

الالتزام بالأساسيات سوف يساعدنا على الحصول على الرسائل الصحيحة قدر الإمكان، سواء كانت النتائج والأوضاع سوداء أو بيضاء أو رمادية. إبحث كثيراً لتفهم أهداف الشركة – أكانت واضحة أم لا – كما يجب عليك أن تفهم طريقة تفكير المستهلك.

في النهاية، يجب على المسؤولين الإعلاميين العمل عن كثب مع كبار المسؤولين التنفيذيين، وعادة لا يحدث هذا بشكل كاف. الأمور تتغير مع مرور الزمن، حيث يقوم مسؤولو العلاقات العامة والتسويق بتنسيق أعمالهم بشكل أكبر وأسرع مع كبار المسؤولين، ويجب القول أن افضل مسؤولي العلاقات العامة هم الذين يعتبرون الآن جزءً من فريق كبار المسؤولين التنفيذيين في الشركة، والذين اختيروا لمعرفتهم وتقديرهم لتعقيدات وتحديات عالم الأعمال.

يجب أن ندرك أنّ عملية وضع رسائل الشركة ليست مهمّة سهلة. فهي انجاز استراتيجي للغاية وبحاجة الى المتابعة بشكل دوري كعملية مستمرة – لتصبح بذلك جزءً من سير العمل. فهي مزيج من الفن والعلم معاً، وهذا هو الأساس الذي بنيت عليه كل الحملات الناجحة.

 Translated into Arabic by Lona Ayoub, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai

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