Executing a winning digital strategy that supports your company's — and your audience's — needs requires that communication professionals thoroughly hone their digital knowledge and skills. If you had to reimagine a successful digital strategy for your organization, what would it look like? How would you share it to gain leadership buy-in?
In a recent IABC master class series, Digital Acumen for Business Communicators, Dr. Lilian Ajayi-Ore, Ed.D., gave a comprehensive exploration into the convergence of technology and messaging to boost audience engagement and drive business results. While presented through a marketing communications lens, the concepts and guidance apply equally well to internal communications.
"The ability to successfully engage your audience using a clearly defined strategy rests on your ability to understand the digital media landscape and its omnichannel experience." —Dr. Lilian Ajayi-Ore
A winning digital strategy involves an integrated approach that accepts the digital world as a place where brands must take control, target their customers more than ever before and take a 360-degree approach to develop multichannel content on all formats.
What is keeping us from being successful with these changes or achieving our wins? Here's a sample of typical barriers we encounter:
- Physical barriers like time, place, resources and others
- Emotional barriers conveyed in visual and audio cues
- Identity barriers that lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings
- Semantic barriers caused by different interpretations of words and symbols
- Attention barriers that cause people to miss out due to distractions
Digital communications strategy requires
- deliberate actions that include strategy, audience analysis, channel analysis, platform analysis, research and data analytics,
- advanced technology to enable digital success within a digital transformation,
- a "customer-centric" mindset to capture all consumers' relevant touchpoints, and data utilized to understand the customer's value spectrum and
- building community for your brand and products.
Dr. Ajayi-Ore described the stages of an effective digital communications strategy, beginning with defining what the strategy means for the business and what it should mean for the customer; then, establishing a framework for effective digital communications for each channel. Once you align with you customer segments, understand what motivates your customers and gets them to respond. Finally, understand your customer's value spectrum, which allocates customers into categories based on their spending preferences.
The value spectrum provides a clearer understanding of where to focus your efforts first — spending the most time on customers who can provide the highest returns. It’s based on a matrix that ranks customer loyalty against the value they bring. For example, if your customer base is in the low-value/low-loyalty quadrant, you need to decide how to best reach them, either through potential for value or for loyalty.
“Companies fail or fall short of their potential not because of bad strategies, but because of failure to implement good ones.” —Intellibridge
- 85% of leadership teams spend less than one hour per month on strategy.
- 50% of leadership teams spend no time at all on strategy.
- 61% of executives acknowledged that their firms often struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and execution.
“An organization cannot expect to be good at something it does not spend much time on.” —Intellibridge
In small group interactive sessions, participants shared an example of a communication challenge they experienced, then discussed a strategic solution. A consistent issue was recognizing the need to fully identify their customer segments and understand what motivates each.
One group addressed the challenge of accurately identifying demographic details, like age, geography and channel preferences. Acquiring resources to provide data mining services, then interpreting and reporting results, was a major step to resolving related communications issues. For example, detailing generational differences would enable them to prioritize audience segments based on their level of engagement and choice of communication channels. Understanding geographic differences would enable them to develop more engaging location-based content.
Another group identified a challenge in getting people to download and utilize a new mobile app to their personal phones for company information when many frontline workers don't have computer access. They identified a solution to improve delivery of more compelling information that resonated with each segment of audiences, and they expanded use of communication channels to promote adoption of the app, especially through word-of-mouth.
Dr. Ajayi-Ore provided key considerations for communication professionals to adopt when presenting digital strategy solutions to their organizations:
- Research, then tailor your message. "Before you engage in strategy, there has to be some research in order to act on it."
- Sell the deciders. Provide decision-makers with enough details on implications and impact. "We forget to educate people in the room."
- Engage the implementers with sensitivity and shared value. Include your manager and executives who approve recommendations, as well as peers and the broader audience who are affected by the recommendation.
- Broaden your influence by adapting how you listen to customers. It helps them determine whether they think you can help them transform and act differently.
“Digital Acumen for Business Communicators” was a three-part master class that took place in October and November 2022. Keep an eye out for more information from IABC on more classes like this in the future. For additional resources on the topic, visit the Digital Acumen Resources page online here.
Joe Bobbey is a member of the IABC Trend Watch Committee and Catalyst Subcommittee, and board member of the Greater Cincinnati chapter. He recently retired as a change management consultant.