5 Signs You Need Strategic Communications Counsel

Are you in charge of a business or its communication success? In either case, you're well aware how true the adage that "nothing happens until communication takes place."

Up to now, you've handled communications on your own, but when should you engage outside strategic communications counsel? And what should you expect when you do? Here are five common signs you're ready for the assist:

1. You have no communications plan, or lack consensus on your future vision.
It's amazing how many organizations fail to take the time to invest in a strategic communications plan. A strategic communications firm will work with you to develop a research-informed process that 1) brings insights to your leadership, 2) re-establishes an actionable vision and 3) proposes the communication imperatives necessary to realize that vision.

The firm will draw from its own experiences and best practices, but will customize an approach to the particular needs and nuances of your organization. And it will provide an important outside perspective to suggest new, innovative and measurable strategies to make sure your messages are being heard and acted upon by customers, employees, and other key stakeholders.

2. Many stakeholders either aren't aware of your organization's value proposition, don't find it to be compelling, or don't understand it.
Have you conducted a SWOT analysis specific to your communications efforts? Do you have a definitive Point of View on how to focus your communications for success? A well-informed SWOT that takes all messaging and channels into consideration will help you articulate your brand's value more clearly and simply.

3. You have separate plans for marketing, PR, advertising and social media.
Strategic communications counselors recognize the roles of these disciplines, and will suggest ways to ensure all forms of communication are mutually supportive. AirPR's Rebekah Iliff refers to this as the PESO model. We've built on this to create our own model. Whether it's paid, earned, shared, or owned media, a well-crafted strategic framework and plan engages the leaders of these disciplines and ensures the coordination necessary to make your messaging stand out-with authority.

4. Your communications objectives aren't actionable or measurable.
That's a big no-no. Communication takes too much time and resources to not be measurable. Truly strategic counsel will help you discard platitudes and nonsense to get at the heart of articulating what the business must achieve, and how to best measure progress toward that achievement.

5. Your to-do list is larger than you can execute.
Effective strategic communications means making informed choices about where to spend time and resources. This can often mean implementing what I call a "surge" strategy: establish what your team believes are the most difference-making priorities, deploy the tactical resources necessary to successfully achieve them; then demonstrate or sell-back the results and wisdom of further investment in the next communications surge.

When's the last time you engaged strategic communications counsel to look at the "big picture" of how you're faring in a frantic, competitive, new media world? Consider it now-2016 is just around the corner.