Wise Words

Finding the right combination of communication tools, tip #2: Learn


March 12, 2013



colors copy Finding the right combination of communication tools, tip #2: LearnThis post is part of a three-part series on how PR and marketing professionals select communication tools.

Throughout the series, we’ll share how our team finds the perfect combination of tools to achieve an integrated approach to communication.

Our first post examined the power of listening. This post focuses on learning, and how being in the know lends to a well prepared, thought out and tactfully integrated communications campaign. Here’s tip number two: LEARN.

Tip #2: Become a mini-expert about your clients and their respective industries.

To effectively communicate about our clients or on behalf of our clients, we need to learn as much as possible about them and their industries.

To do that, we take inventory of all of their existing communication materials (e.g., website, social media, client newsletters, etc.); we identify the strengths and weaknesses of each medium; we determine industry standards by comparing them to their competitors’ materials; and we monitor conversation to spot trends and see how they fit in to the industry at large.

Take Inventory

Auditing gives us an idea of how clients wish to be perceived by their audiences. For example, a client’s website might focus more on its philanthropic efforts than its products or services. From those findings, we can glean that it places a premium on its good works in the community, and wants its publics to know that.

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Identifying strengths and weaknesses in clients’ existing communications helps us to spot areas for improvement. Perhaps a client has an incredible website, a secure point of sale system and engaging social media platforms, but lacks a promotional element to drive sales. Knowing that weakness tells us where we can step in to increase revenue.

Determine Industry Standards

Knowing our clients’ competitors as well as we know our own clients tells us a lot about their industry. Knowing what’s out there and how its being marketed guides our efforts to distinguish clients against their competitors. For example, if the clients’ competitors are using direct mail marketing but ignoring email marketing, perhaps there is an opportunity to engage consumers online.

Spot Trends

Monitoring conversation about our clients and their respective industries allows us to forecast trends and identify opportunities for engagement. Perhaps news coverage, blogs and online discussion forums indicate that consumers prefer to buy goods and services from mobile devices rather than via Amazon or Etsy. Based on those findings, we can advise our client to create a mobile app that provides consumers with a point of sale.

Selecting communication tactics appropriate for our clients and their audiences requires thorough research and careful observation. Before we provide counsel or outline a proposed strategy, we should be intimately familiar with the client’s unique situation and expectations.* By taking inventory, identifying strengths and weaknesses, determining industry standards and spotting trends, we should be in a position to answer all of the following questions:

  • What has the client and/or its competitors already done?
  • What’s worked, what hasn’t, and why?
  • What are the opportunities?
  • What are the challenges?

*Every client and situation is different. Sometimes, not all of the information is unavailable, and/or resources don’t allow for extensive research and prep time. This post and its suggestions act as a guide, not as an end-all-be-all solution for every client or campaign. 



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