I recently gave a talk at NationBuilder’s ‘Ingredients of a Successful Digital Campaign’ event. The focus of the 7 minute (!) presentation was the role of the consultant in developing a digital strategy.
I thought i’d share the full text to add context to the points I talked through at the event. As ever, thanks to Toni and the NationBuilder team for having me!
Regardless of your sector, online and offline communications go hand in hand; they are totally integrated.
Previously, people would talk about your brand down the pub and you’d never get a true insight into how you were perceived without looking at expensive market research. Now, people go on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Periscope etc and you can find out in an instant what they think of you.
Digital campaigns give us a great opportunity to connect with audiences in ways only made possible in the last 10-15 years – the caveat being that in order to connect effectively you need to work around your audience.
I’ll keep coming back to audiences because they are more vocal than ever; you’ll get feedback you like, feedback that you don’t. What you can be certain of, is that they’ll let you know what they think.
What Is Strategy?
Before we get to the strategy development, I think it’s worth spending a moment to outline what a strategy actually is. Digital comms is a blend of art and science, so let’s do the science bit first by setting a control for the discussion.
Strategy one of the most mis-used words in a marketer’s vocabulary – I’m as guilty of it as anyone else – so let’s set a common understanding:
Aim – the overall desired outcome we want to achieve
Strategy – how we’re going to go about what we want to achieve
Objectives – what needs to happen contribute to us succeeding
Tactics – what we’re going to do to make it happen
So, a strategy outlines how we’re going to meet our imperative. Let’s see how that manifests itself.
Role of the Consultant
What does the consultant actually bring to the table?
Please forgive me for a selfie-related analogy… when it comes to strategy, I see the role of the consultant very much akin to the chap holding the phone taking a selfie with his family. Well, I assume it’s his family.
As a consultant you need to know what your end goal is – why are you doing what you’re doing; in the case of the selfie, it’s to get everybody in the same picture, preferably smiling, with a good amount of the background in shot so it’s Instagram-worthy.
You need to know who should be in the picture; preferably with as little opportunity for others to photobomb as possible.
You need to prepare everyone so that they know what their role is; in this case, smile on 3!
Finally, you need to have a steady arm; you need to ensure the end outcome (the picture) achieved what you set out to do in the first place.
A consultant’s role is to make sure that everyone has performed their roles to the best of their abilities to meet the needs of the client.
How do we get to find out what the client’s need are? The answer is actually pretty simple; we need to ask questions.
A client or prospect will come to us with a problem, issue or challenge they’re facing: we need to sell more product through our website; we have a corporate reputation issue on Twitter; we need to build our brand awareness with an online community.
We need to ask questions to help us understand what the client wants, what the community needs and then we can work out the bit in the middle: the strategy to bring the two together.
So, what are those questions? I’ve got 11 to get you started, but there are probably many more to throw in here. They broadly fall into 3 categories.
1. Set The Scene
We need to understand what the client wants to happen as a result of a digital campaign: We need to ask
1) What is the objective of your online presence & how does this tie into the overall business or communications objective? – This tells us the big picture, what should people expect from the client’s online presence?
2) How do we want people to think, act and feel when they see and interact with us online? – Are we looking to give them information to share; do we want to make them feel special; do we want them to associate us with a particular conversation topic?
You’ll notice this is no different to developing an offline strategy – the only aspect here is that the action is carried out online.
2. Define Your Audience
You need to know who you’re going to try and talk with, so there are four main questions to address:
3) Who are our audiences? – The answer here is not ‘Millennials’. Your answer should be based on interest groups; a cross section of Millennials may fall within an interest group, but Millennials as a whole, are not an audience.
4) Where are they online? – By understanding where your audience is online, you can work out how they behave and the best way to serve content. Are they in forums and looking for conversations; are they on Buzzfeed and looking for amazing content to share?
5) Where are we online; what are the gaps? – If we’re aiming to engage with people interested in fashion, do we have a credible YouTube or Instagram channel. If we’re looking to engage with people interested in politics, should we have a blog or a profile on Linkedin?
6) Where are our competitors online and what are they doing?/How do we stand out? – The Internet is saturated with brands, companies and organisations vying for attention – what can we provide to our desired target audiences that will make us stand out?
Again, you’ll notice this is no different to developing an offline strategy – the only aspect here is that the action is carried out online.
3. Refine Your Execution
Finally, how are we going to do what we need to do?
7) What are our key messages and stories? – We know what the desired audience is and how they behave, what do we want to tell them? If you don’t have an immediate news hook, you’ll not have any success!
8) How do we want to communicate them?/How should we communicate them? – Do we have loads of long form content ripe for reading? We need to compromise and turn those whitepapers into web-appropriate content; quick videos or infographics for example.
9) What does success look like? – We know what our aim is, what are we going to measure to ensure we’re successful. Are we looking for engagement, loyalty or sales?
10) How do we implement? – This is where we finally address what we need to do; are the right online channels already in place? Do we need to go and hire a photographer to take some amazing pictures? Do we have access to any talent to help connect our story with the audience?
11) What are we implementing? – Finally, the fun bit, and the aspect that we most naturally go to first: what tactics shall we use?
With all the information you’ve gathered with the first ten questions, you should be in a position to come up with amazingly creative, or simple yet effective campaign tactics that meet your needs and those of your target audience.
Again… it’s the same as creating an offline strategy, it’s just played out online.
Getting The Right Blend
Once you have your answers, you’ve got your plan in place and you’ve come up with a great campaign story, you need to work out how you’ll execute.
This is where you need to think about capabilities and resources. Do you have a team who can create amazing videos? Can you call on creatives who will bring your stories to life visually? Do you have people who can manage an influencer outreach programme? Do you have in-house resource to build a website or app?
As a consultant, either in-house or agency-side, you need to work out the best placed teams and people who can help you achieve the right result.
Working With Partners
That might mean that you’ll need to work with partners. There are lots of companies who can help you to put those foundations in place to help you succeed.
The key to working with partners is trust and building an honest and transparent working relationship.
Collaboration. Share as much knowledge as you can and collaborate to find the best solution to the challenge you’re facing.
The technology that is available to us to help run campaigns is astounding – we should embrace it and not be afraid to keep asking questions.
I’d love to know what i’ve missed and to get your thoughts on successful digital campaign strategy development, leave a comment below!