There is no best way to communicate. This isn't a sport in which only one champion gets to cut down the nets or hoist the trophy. We're each competing on different playing fields, some as individuals, some as teams, and all aiming for a different goal. The question is whether we're each using the right equipment for the games we're playing.
We always ask four questions when we're developing communication strategy: Who do we want to reach? What do they already know about us? What do we want them to know? What do we want them to do?
Until we answer those questions, we can't know what field we're playing on or how to find the goal. Asking those questions keeps us from bringing a baseball bat to a tennis match…or to drop this sporting analogy, it keeps us from scheduling a press conference when a direct communication strategy is more appropriate.
Problems occur when we skip strategy and jump straight to tactics, which unfortunately happens fairly often when we're rushed or when we think we've discovered the latest, greatest way to communicate.
We recently managed a successful referendum campaign in a community of mostly blue-collar workers and retirees. As we began developing our plans, a young staffer from a partner agency came to us with several ideas for how we should launch a massive Facebook campaign supported by targeted digital advertising.
But our research showed us that Facebook would be largely ineffective in reaching likely voters, and that a majority of the community still preferred the printed word over digital. So we relied on door-to-door outreach, yard signs, community meetings, and telephone calls – and we won with 63% of the vote.
Our client didn't care how we reached voters, they only cared that we reached voters, and that we did so in a way that motivated them to take our side. Game on.
Dan Ward is VP and partner at Curley & Pynn Public Relations Management in Orlando, FL.