Updated: Sep 5, 2019
BE AUTHENTIC - Brilliant communications are always a clear and simple path straight through to your target audience - whatever the medium. Brilliant communications for your brand and your company must be authentic - whatever the medium.
In a busy world where we can get more caught up on how our competitors are doing it, we can quickly get distracted and our core messages can go off track, or are not a clear and consistent conversation. Like a person, you are you, and your brand is your brand voice, with its own unique personality traits. It needs to be confident on what it stands for and the voice it communicates out each day, at every touchpoint.
KNOW YOUR LINE - 'Your line' of communications is your mix of communications, be it offline, online, below the line, above the line, a dotted line etc...any line you need (!), to get your message through effectively, in a real and authentic way. What is critical, is to keep it very real to your brand values and pick the best combination of communication mediums to be heard. If you are clear on your main target audience, and you already have a solid reputation, most of the time they are already listening or waiting to listen. Be aware too, as your current target audience is already listening, they can question your messages if you go off track (eg. whilst you get distracted trying to find new customers the wrong way).
WHAT MESSAGES? - Start with the very essence of your core brand or company message and go from there. Your communications can have a secondary message and will evolve over time. Whatever you say, the underlying brand or company message must ALWAYS stay true to its unique character. If you are not sure across your team on your brand or company character and key messages, then it's a good team exercise to refresh and write them down and reclarify. It can also help to reclarify what you are NOT about. I have always said that 'messing with branding is like messing with mother nature' - you don't do it, or you only do it when it must be done. Watch new marketing people changing something for the sake of it, because they personally see it differently at that moment in time - restraint is key and market evidence for a really considered action.
And remember it's not about how you see it, what's more important, is how your customers see and perceive you. Ask your customers to test it, you can always close the perception gap on areas that have been missing.
WHAT MEDIUM MIX? - You will want to use a range of mediums, including online mediums, as part of your mix. But remember, online is part of the mix with your offline messages, to complete the powerhouse of your voice of brand and/or company. When I say offline, I am talking right through to what you front line sales and customer service people say and what your marketing material says. Remember, in most situations we are passing on real human connections, so the online message should compliment the conversation, as one clear and consistent message over time - this is critical!
Online Communications (digital)
Everyone is online these days one way or another. Ironically, sometimes we go offline to relax as if its a whole new world!...it's funny the cycles of everything isn't it!. Online has completely morphed into our daily life in many forms. So yes, you have to be there as part of your brand and company communication mix. But remember, as everyone is now doing online, not just the early adopters or the incredibly smart, switched on and savvy next generation (and the generations still to come!), it is not as cheap or as clear cut as it started out online, so just be very aware of your online communication fit and the objectives you are looking to achieve. Test a few things first, check what your competitors are doing or other leading nearby industry references to guide you. Ultimately, your online message should mirror your offline message (I have a little learning I use with my kids, only do or say online what you would do or say offline - that's the test, or, if your offline behaviour is not cool then you're not going online, your devices go away!).
Offline Communications (print, F2F)
Its funny how cycles come and go - I notice that everything tends to operate on a cycle over time. As I said above, these days you hear some people saying that they are going offline to have a break - a digital detox! Online communication and the ease of our online communication is incredible, but don't forget a lot of people still like some offline in their communication mix, whether they admit it or not. Always think through 'your line', for your brand and your business as the blend will vary based on the product or service you offer. The product or service that your brand/company offers, will guide and determine the level of offline you need in the mix. Some businesses are only online, some businesses are only offline with a very personal human interaction, and most are a mix of inbetween. Think of some of the latest online leaders (successful segment disruptors), such as Uber and Airbnb, or Amazon, it's pretty much all online, but the experience and the interactions they guide us on are pretty incredible, with their beautifully designed and well crafted app experience...plus they save us a ton of money on the way through!
Whereas, a fine dining restaurant or a personal or luxury designer product for your home; you want to touch it and talk it through face to face with the trusted expert, so in this example everything online is only really supporting the core offline experience.
Below The Line Communications (BLT, direct)
The more direct and personal touches of communications direct to your target audience. Direct marketing is still very powerful that's for sure, but today there are just so many more mediums to talk direct to your customers. Embrace them all, but do what fits for your brand and your company. Have a solid CRM strategy and CRM system to know the in-depth preferences of your primary customers, so you can talk to them as they like.
Direct communication can be offline in a well crafted printed communication that people like to touch/feel/experience, or it can be an eDM (electronic direct marketing communication) sent to the person because the asked for it. Both can be in the mix depending on your product or service. Both can be super effective to obtain some form of direct response reaction. Typically a direct communication is on a specific topic with the objective of a specific call to action.
Above The Line Communications (ALT, TV, radio)
The traditional broader based communications of printed newspapers & magazines, radio and TV can still hit a very large population audience. They can still be very powerful forms of communication media to maintain brand awareness or drive an immediate call to action. However, today in our busy world we just have a lot of other choices to listen and see brand messages, so your media planning and placement is critical to get the right cut through to your target audience.
Printed broader audience newspapers, through to speciality newspapers and magazines, can be very effective to talk to your customers. It really just comes down to the effectiveness of these mediums for your specific product or service. Think of the boutique Cafe/Coffee culture magazines that sit around in out local cafe. Or the classy Real Estate booklets to flick through, as well as the beautifully presented Architecture and Designer magazines to inspire ideas.
These days TV is now free as well as paid digital streaming has become commonplace. Radio is traditional as well as Podcasts and other mediums. So depending on your product or service and the target audience and new growth potential you are seeking, will determine the level of ALT you need in your communication mix. The big generalist brands will always be on TV or Radio as they are always talking to a massive audience ongoing (eg. I think of Bunnings who hit the TV very heavy from a Friday night when we are home and thinking of all the jobs around the house we need to do over the weekend. If you are like me, when you pop in for a lightbulb at Bunnings, you typically will walk out with 100 batteries or extension cords you don't really need yet!).
Also note, Regional TV and Radio is much cheaper than Metro, so if your product or service extends into more regional or country areas you really must consider it.
Your Line of Communications
In conclusion, amongst all the many forms of communication options, really just think and focus on 'Your Line' of communications. Your ultimate mix of communication mediums that best serves your brand and your company, in your industry. Sure, you can use other leading references of other brands and companies, but ultimately it needs to be your voice and your message, through your chosen mix of communication mediums, to your target audience/s. This is what we call 'Your Line' - your unique blend that cuts through to be heard!