By now, it's pretty clear that thinking and communicating locally is a critical element for overall success. What might not be so clear is how you ensure that you have the right communications model in place to achieve these results.
The reality is that your local communications program is only as strong as the team implementing it. While it's easy to say that you know a community or understand the nuance that is necessary to communicate authentically with it, it is actually difficult, and it requires market-specific expertise.
We all like the idea of having a one-stop communications shop, but that it isn't always practical. There is no doubt that a common theme and general leadership are important for the success of a multimarket campaign. However, even at a firm with offices in multiple markets, it is easy for these satellite operations to forget the nuance of the area that they serve and buy into a cookie-cutter way of doing things.
For example, we recently finished work with a small community water district in the Eastern Sierra portion of California. Our client was engaged in a fight with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which was claiming the rights to all of the water in that community. It was the classic Chinatown story. Recognizing the resources available to the Water and Power Department, our client could've opted to hire the perceived muscle of a larger, national firm. However, it keenly recognized that muscle is no replacement for finesse and expertise. By hiring us, they had a firm with deep in market experience, but one that also understood how to situate the issue in a broader regional and national context. As a result, the right pressure was applied and a settlement was reached.
The people you want developing your strategy should be working in your target markets and with your key audiences regularly. They should be formulating an independent opinion as to how best to reach a given community and what tactics will achieve the desired outcome. Successful programs need communicators who thoroughly understand what motivates the target audience and what is going to cut through the media chatter.
While there are many shooting stars, you need to make sure that you are getting the right ones for you. That means finding people who understand how to think globally and communicate locally. Remember these tips:
·It's impossible to be everywhere at every moment, no matter how big you are.
·Clients appreciate straightforward honesty; don't over-promise and under-deliver.
·You can't fake authenticity; either you have it or you don't.
·Global thematic continuity matters, but local results move the dial.
·It's only 10% about what you say, and 90% in how you say it.
As communicators, our programs' success depends on our understanding of the local culture, politics, economy, and community. While you don't have to have a physical presence in every community to be successful, you do need to have more than a basic understanding of what makes a particular group tick.Sean Rossall is VP of media relations and crisis communications at Cerrell Associates.