It’s easy, when you’re planning a communications strategy or project, to get caught up in the reams of material to read and the plans to be written. But there’s no substitute for leaving your desk and going to talk to people. By consulting your colleagues and audiences, you’ll feed ideas, perspectives, opinions and (if you’re lucky) even wisdom into your plan. And in the course of consultations, you can test out preliminary ideas you’ve formed of strategic directions or tactics; explore potential messaging themes; gain detailed insight into key audience segments; clarify questions raised in the course of research; and gain buy-in for the next stages of your strategy development.
The scope of your consultations should match your communications strategy requirement:
- Planning for a straightforward event, such as an Annual General Meeting, may just require internal consultation with some key players.
- A multi-year corporate communications strategy, by contrast, would benefit from consulting broadly with senior managers, the CEO, Board representatives and key stakeholder representatives.
- Even in the case of crisis communications, where time doesn’t permit formal interviews or workshops, a quick consultation of subject matter experts and decision-makers will give insight into an issue, its context and the outcome you’re aiming for.
As for the question of who to consult, relevant internal clients obviously come first. Beyond that, it’s useful to engage with intended key audience groups if possible; you’ll gain first-hand knowledge into their communication preferences while also solidifying relationships. Sometimes it’s also worth consulting certain stakeholder groups for relationship-maintenance purposes alone, if not being consulted might make them resistant to (or worse, antagonistic toward) new tactics and initiatives you might recommend.