5 communication ‘dont’s’ for 2011

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As it’s the start of a brand new year, most people are busy making positive predictions and resolutions for 2011.

But, as I’m a complete pessimist at heart, here’s my list of things you SHOULDN’T be doing in public relations this year.

1. Don’t be ‘on’ social media:

It has been said by many that 2010 was the year that social media really took off. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr – 2010 was the year that you HAD to be seen to be using these channels, and many more besides. But simply being ‘on’ these channels – and by that I mean you’ve set up a profile page with a nice bit of blurb about you or your business, a flattering profile picture and the odd sales tweet/post/video – isn’t enough. If you’ve set these channels up but aren’t utilising them for customer or peer interaction – ala Tesco’s Twitter feed – then they really aren’t worth having at all. Work out what you want to achieve (higher brand profile, a communication channel for customer queries), look at what your competitors are doing, listen to your customers and then spend time on putting together a plan – and investing the time – to make these channels work for you.

2. Don’t give up on traditional media:

Yes, traditional paper and magazine circulations are dwindling rapidly. But I for one firmly believe that they are, and always will be, here to stay. And although social media and online publicity is definitely where communications is headed, there is a lot to be said about the power of a really strong piece of coverage in the correct publication. Local newspapers seem more receptive than ever to targeted content, and there are also many niche trade publications, catering for sectors across the board, which have strong and loyal readers. Also, if you target traditional press you’re usually killing two birds with one stone, with most print coverage appearing online too.

3. Don’t cut your marketing budget (too much):

I hate to use the dreaded ‘R’ word – but even a couple of years since it first hit, the recession is still biting many companies hard. And with the public sector cuts happening this year, and the knock on effect that will have on the private sector companies which supply them, it looks like this year may be one of the hardest yet. One of the first departments to be hit is usually the marketing department and all that falls under that banner – PR, advertising, online, internal comms. Cuts need to be made but it is often companies which are investing in their marketing departments – and therefore their reputation – which reap the benefits.

4. Don’t get stuck in a rut:

It’s very easy to continue your marketing and communications strategy as you always have done. But is it really working? It is important to evaluate last year. What worked and what didn’t? Do you need to invest more (or less) time and/or money in particular areas? There are new communication channels opening up every day – why not explore these and see if they fit into your strategy for 2011? For example – perhaps you’ve always focused on magazine advertorials and haven’t yet branched into blogs or online forums? Consult experts for their opinions but also consult your staff (across the company – not just the marketing team). What do they think of the firm’s communications strategy? What reactions do they get from the people they deal with on a day to day basis? Where do people hear about you?  Use this feedback to structure your comms plan for the year ahead – ensuring you’re investing in the areas which will give you the most return. 

5. Don’t think communications is quick, or easy:

In 2010 there was a lot of talk about the return on investment for both traditional PR and also social media. But unfortunately it’s not always a simple equation which can be tracked to the bottom line. People don’t always ‘like’ your Facebook page, read your news article or visit your website and then instantly purchase your products or services. I hate to use the cliché but sometimes ‘background noise’ is important. It takes time, and consistent and quality material, to build up a reputation online and in the press.

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