External communication strategies: Finding your marketing megaphone
Let’s face it, growing an effective business has never been easy.
To start with, you need an incredible idea – something that no one else in your industry has. That means spending weeks, or even months coming up with a USP. Your USP will help you to define your audience, which you can then use to form the foundation of your brand identity, and the personality you’re going to use to connect with your customers.
Once you’ve got that unique selling point and identity, you can start to bring a team together. These people will help you to sell your product or service to your customers. Of course, if you really want to make a profit for your company, you need a way to communicate the unique nature of your product or service to your shareholders, investors, contributors, and customers. That’s where external communications become an imperative.
The best way to define external communication is as a strategy covering the wide range of methods companies use to capture the attention of the public. Unlike marketing plans, which focus on conveying your value to customers and clients, external communication is about connecting with anyone outside of your business. This means that while they include things like social media marketing and video content, they also refer to presentations for shareholders, or investor campaigns.
In a world where businesses thrive on effective communication, we’re going to examine how you can build your own external communication strategies, and what aspects you’ll need to consider.
The difference between internal and external communication
Brands need effective communication to survive.
In the business world, there are two primary flavours of communication: Internal, and external. In recent years, as advocacy campaigns, employee ambassadors, and social media solutions have emerged, the difference between internal and external communication has become less obvious. The lines are blurring, making it increasingly important for companies to have a solid strategy for success.
While there are overlapping aspects of internal and external communications, the two are still fundamentally different concepts. For instance, internal communications refer to strategies that transfer information between different members of your organisation. In an era where only 24% of global employees are engaged, internal communication solutions keep your staff on the ball and tuned in to the things that matter for your brand. They might include:
- Employee newsletters: Like an email marketing campaign, a newsletter keeps the various segments of your company updated as to what’s happening in your organisation.
- Social intranets: An intranet is an online portal that employees can access to find useful information about your business, including brand manifestos and personality guidelines.
- Team collaboration tools: In today’s digitally-transformed world, there is a range of apps and tools available that help to improve communications between company employees, no matter how large an enterprise might be.
Internal communication gives a team a chance to improve the quality of work and discuss new ideas. It helps to provide the culture and working environment that leads to long-term success for brands. On the other hand, external communications are about connecting with people outside of your typical office. While both internal and external communications in business are both important, most people focus most of their attention on the external elements.
External communications share your marketing mix with the world, helping you to communicate your brand purpose, developments, and personality to the public. An external communication agency might advise using solutions like:
- Advertising: Whether you prefer content marketing or more traditional forms of advertising for your external corporate communication, one of the most important parts of your strategy will be finding a way to connect with your audience. Advertising has many different layers depending on which part of the buyer journey you want to appeal to. For instance, you may use a television advert during the “Awareness” stage, then move onto email marketing when you need to nurture your leads.
- Presentations / brand information: External communication strategies don’t just include marketing campaigns, but also the things you use to reach out to investors, suppliers, and shareholders do. This means that they can include slides, presentations, sales material, and more.
- Networking strategies: An external communication strategy might also include a networking campaign that allows you to build your external connection. In today’s digital world, a lot of networking takes place online, through connections to PR agencies, news outlets, and social media influencers. However, there’s still plenty of opportunities to grow your brand through events and seminars too.
Types of external communication: Ways to make a connection
Now that you’ve got a basic answer to the question “What is external communication?” and you know how to differentiate it from your internal campaigns, you can start to explore the different ways you might be able to connect with your external audience.
Often, the external communication strategies you use will depend on various factors. Everything from your brand positioning, to your marketing goals, and even your budget can affect what your external communications look like. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to accessing the advantages of external communication, most strategies include some of the following elements:
1. Website content and blogging
Website creation, SEO, and content marketing aren’t just ways to advertise your business. While they’re all effective in helping to build your bottom line, they also provide plenty of important information about your company. After all, whenever someone in today’s marketplace considers doing business with a brand, the first thing they do is “Google” them to see if they have a web presence.
There’s a good reason why marketers who blog are up to 13 times more likely to experience a good ROI. Companies that blog also generate up to 67% more leads than their peers. When it comes to building your external communications strategy, your website becomes the hub for all of your other brand-building campaigns. Every post you create is another indexed page on your website, making it increasingly likely that your customers will find you when they search online. Your content marketing efforts will also show search engines that your site is active, which helps you rise faster to the top of the search results. What’s more, with a comment section and contact page, you ensure that the communication goes both ways.
2. Live events and conferences
When you’re exploring internal and external communication in business, it’s important to remember that you need a wide range of strategies to appeal to a broad audience. While your blogs might capture the attention of your B2C customers, you’re likely to need another way to interact with potential partners, shareholders, resellers, and professional partners. Live events, seminars, and conferences are a great way to boost your external corporate communication strategy.
Though it’s safe to say that there are plenty of B2B strategies and networking sites like LinkedIn out there that will help with the corporate side of your external communications, there are still few things more effective than a face-to-face interaction when you want to develop a lucrative relationship with someone.
3. Email and newsletters
For the majority of today’s businesses, email is an effective form of marketing. However, email isn’t just a way to show new offers to your customers and try to sell your products. It’s also a powerful way to build relationships with various groups in your external network. With segmentation, you can group your email campaigns into solutions for shareholders, customers, and investors, and then refine each of those groups even further.
Email open-rates are on the rise and the fact that it costs very little to get an email campaign going means that it’s one of the best ways to add weight to your external communication in business toolkit. Just make sure that you design something that works just as well on mobile devices as it does on desktop screens. More than half of all US cellphone owners access email on a phone rather than a desktop.
4. Social media
Social media has emerged as one of the most important external communication tools for many brands. In fact, it’s so effective when it comes to improving quick and efficient communications, that it’s even become a part of the internal communication network too. For an effective external communication strategy using social media, you’ll need to find out what kind of platforms your audience uses to connect.
Once you know where your customers are, you can begin to build your social media strategy to serve them. Remember, external communications aren’t just about advertising. 67% of consumers use social media to make customer service inquiries, so you should be thinking about how you can answer customer queries too.
5. Press releases
Finally, while press releases might not be the most modern or high-tech external communications solutions on the market today, they’re still an effective way to get the latest news about your business out. Press releases issued through reputable journalism pages and media outlets help to improve your reputation and credibility as a brand. They also ensure that you connect with new customers or potential investors on different channels.
As well as press releases, companies can also arrange interviews and press conferences to make important announcements about changes in their organisation. For instance, you might want to talk about your latest rebrand using an official spokesperson, or an interview with a brand publication.
How to radically improve your external communications strategy
By this point, you should be prepped to start building the framework for your external communication definition. Remember, if done correctly, external communications can have a significant impact on the growth of your brand. They not only help to generate the interest and attention you need when you first launch your company, but also give you an opportunity to create powerful and positive relationships for the long-term development of your brand.
If you’re ready to make the most out of your external communications strategy, then check out the following tips:
1. Know your audience
All the best communication tricks, marketing hacks, and networking strategies in the world won’t help you if you’re not talking your audience’s language. Before you can decide how you want to send your messages, you need to make sure you know who you want to receive that message. Your external communications strategy is likely to contain a handful of different audience segments, including:
- Investors and shareholders: People outside of your company that help your business to keep growing.
- Influencers and partners: The individuals that you might want to work with in the future to develop your brand.
- Customers and clients: The people who buy your products or invest in your services.
Each of these groups will have their own distinct motivations to work with your brand. Creating a unique buyer persona for each group will give you the focus you need to connect with the right people and generate positive responses.
2. Choose the right platforms
The more you know about your audience, the more you’ll be able to figure out where they spend their time, and where you’ll be best able to communicate with them. For instance, you’ll be able to reach a large number of your customers through social media, but you might need to work with an industry publication to connect with partners and investors.
There are plenty of platforms out there to help you get your message across, including radio, television, press releases, and in-person events. The right platform gives volume to your communications and improves your ROI.
3. Don’t just brag: Deliver real value
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make when it comes to external communication in business, is that they try to make as much noise as possible, without actually delivering anything of value. When you’re building your company for the first time, you might think that investing a lot of time and effort into your external communications strategy will help you to grow faster. However, the truth is that the best results come from thinking each part of your communication plan through carefully so that you can deliver value to each of your audience segments.
Don’t just talk about how amazing your business or product is. Think about what your investors need to know before they get in touch with you – like what’s your average annual profit, or how do you deliver ROI? Consider what your customers care about, and how you can show that you share their values. External communications aren’t just about shouting into the void, it’s about making a connection and resonating with your audience.
Tips to support your external communications definition
There are plenty of articles out there today that discuss how you can improve your internal communication strategy with training, corporate culture, and brand manifestos. But what about when you want to improve your external communication in business?
Achieving effective communication with the outside world is essential when you want to sharpen the image you’ve created for your brand and develop the relationship you have with your customers. For most organisations, the road to success is paved with analytics. After all, the more you learn about the people you’re communicating with, the more you can enhance your messaging. However, the following tips are sure to get you started on the right track.
1. Be relatable
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to communicate with someone if you share their views and values? When designing your external communication strategies, make sure that you assess your user personas carefully, and think about the different preferences that each segment has. This means looking at your shareholders, partners, consumers (and more), and finding points you can resonate with them over. For instance, shareholders and customers alike may appreciate a brand more if its external communications efforts include regular updates on a CSR initiative.
2. Know the value of repetition
In the world of external communications, it’s important to find a good balance between sharing unique ideas and repeating your key messages. Sometimes, effective communication is all about explaining the same things in different ways, so that you can make your brand information accessible to a wider group of people. Repeating certain aspects of your brand identity in your marketing campaigns, events, and conversations with shareholders helps to give you a level of credibility that’s crucial for long-term success.
3. Listen and respond
An important thing to remember about communication is that it’s a two-way street. In other words, when you’re trying to connect with your audience, you shouldn’t just be shouting things at them, or flooding them with marketing materials. Instead, you should be actively listening to what your external network wants from you and responding in kind. Use social media to answer your customer questions and get them involved in the growth of your brand. Host Q&A sessions alongside your presentations for marketers and shareholders. The more you listen, the easier it is to gather useful information about your company.
4. Have a unique voice
External communications are an important part of your branding strategy. As such, they’re a good way for you to show off your unique tone-of-voice and personality. Remember, your external community is looking for reasons to connect with you. Whether it’s an investor wondering where to put their money, or a customer, you need to make sure that you’re having the right impact. Don’t just copy what your competitors are doing. Analyse what’s already available within your market and find a way to make your communications as compelling and engaging as possible. Make your in-person presentations interactive with VR and AR technology. Serve your customers with social media support. Appeal to partners with samples of your products and immersive presentations. Make communication an experience.
5. Remember video
Finally, remember the power of video for your external communications campaigns. Video is a great way to share content with your audience while enhancing your company reputation. Additionally, videos can play a vital role in delivering personalised and speedy responses to PR issues, or when you need to build the trust of stakeholders.
Recent developments like Facebook live video can be particularly useful for external communications as they allow you to host question sessions and demonstrations on a naturally active platform.
Discovering the advantages of external communications
Ultimately, no business can afford to overlook the advantages of external communications.
Not only does the right external communications strategy help to build brand awareness, but it can also boost your sales, and help to create strategies for future growth. With an external communications agency, you can:
- Inform: Educate your customers, shareholders, and anyone else with an interest in your company about what you stand for, what you sell, and where you’re headed.
- Sustain: External communications are important because they allow you to maintain long-lasting relationships with your external community. The right communications keep your brand top-of-mind for longer, so you never lose touch with the people who matter.
- Engage: Engagement is often at the heart of any successful business. An external communication strategy can keep your conversation going with your customers, partners, and other external parties.
- Sell: Marketing is an important part of many external communication strategies. With it, you can show buyers what makes your product or service so valuable and convince investors that you’re worth their money.
- Grow: The advantages of external communication mean that you can consistently grow your business with new connections and relationships. Everything from your website, to your events and social media campaigns, help you to engage both existing customers and new potential users.
Building an external communications strategy is complicated. It requires you to think carefully about how you can translate your brand message into the right language for a range of different audiences. However, when it’s used correctly, external communications can also help you to achieve a lot of important brand objectives.
The important thing to remember is that external communication isn’t just about marketing, it’s about having real, valuable discussions with the people outside of your brand. Through these discussions, you can develop useful insights into how to make your business as lucrative as possible. Communication is the key to any good relationship, make sure that you have the right strategy for your brand.
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