Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of another year! Now that you’ve had a bit of a holiday break, it’s time to look back at your efforts and do a little updating in order to help your team hit the ground running in 2016.
Appraise Your Understanding of Targets and Level of Preparation
Nobody’s perfect, so it’s very likely that you might have had to scramble a little during the year in order to address an unanticipated request for visuals or information. Or maybe you realized during a campaign that a certain individual or group influences your prospects in a way you hadn’t perceived before. Or maybe you realized that you’d overlooked a potential market for your product/service!
If anything like that happened this year, you evaluate your research and planning procedures to ensure you’re better prepared next year. So ask yourself these questions:
• Did you overlook key influencer groups or potential prospects when you were identifying your targets for communication?
• Were there any errors in your understanding of stakeholder groups?
• If a member of a stakeholder group (e.g., a reporter) made a request related to a campaign or pitch, were you able to fulfill that request in a timely manner?
As an example of that last question, I’ve been finding that once I’ve convinced bloggers to do a product reviews for a client, some clients have been rather slow in letting those bloggers have access to the product or service in question. While the clients wanted those reviews, they were extremely busy, so the login requests were often victims of triage (bosses will always beat bloggers on the list of priorities). In one case, a client actually got a case of stage fright because the blogger was such a key influencer within the industry.
To circumvent all of that, I’m thinking about asking for preset logins that I can give to product reviewers so that the process moves along efficiently. The client can approve the list of bloggers that I’m targeting and then they don’t have to think about it again (unless it’s to remember to do a fist pump when I tell them that another review is in the works).
Review Your Communication Materials
Mickie Kennedy of eReleases recommends re-reading press releases from the past year to identify your best and worst efforts. I recommend including samples of other content in your evaluation (e.g., pitches, bait pieces, white papers, speeches, televised appearances and other videos, etc.).
First, see whether there are typos or inaccuracies in any of your materials. If you do find mistakes, figure out how you’ll avoid them in the future. Do you need a style guide or do you need to establish a fact-checking procedure? Also, paste some of your shorter pieces or some samples from your long-form content into the Hemingway App to get an objective picture of how clearly and concisely you’ve been writing.
In addition to looking at the overall quality of each piece, review the type of reaction each one generated. For press releases and pitches, that would be the number of stories. Pull out your press clips or do a Google News search to get an idea of the number of stories each of your efforts generated during the year. It’s also a good idea to look at which approach generated the best response:
• Did your one-page pieces outperform your two-pagers (or more) or was it the other way around?
• Did pieces with bulleted lists and/or short paragraphs gain more coverage?
• Did announcements of content do better than product updates or product releases?
• Were media outlets in any particular geographical areas more receptive?
• What pitches or other efforts failed?
• Is there any pattern/common elements to the failed pitches or to the non-responsive outlets
• Did you get more publicity locally or nationally?
If you can figure out what your targeted media outlets really respond to and who your high value targets are, you’ll have a good shot of increasing your coverage next year.
For efforts aimed directly at customers or clients, determine these factors:
• Whether you included all relevant channels of communication, e.g., text messages, and mobile-friendly email or e-newsletters
• Number of leads generated
• Lead quality (whether those leads fit into the parameters of your preferred customer/client).
• How many converted to customers/clients
• The length of time between a lead being identified and closing the sale
Once you have those benchmarks in place, you can track progress against those metrics so that you can stay on track or even refine your efforts.
Update Your Communication Materials and Tools
Review your boilerplate – the “About” section describing your business at the end of your news releases/media alerts – to see if any relevant information needs to be added. See if your brochures, website, LinkedIn company page, and other promotional materials contain up-to-date information and are designed so that they show your brand in a consistent manner. Also, navigate through your website to make sure that it does not have any broken links or out-of-date information.
Look at whether you’ve been adding new information to your website on a regular basis. If you have not added anything in more than a month, think about strategies for adding content more frequently. You don’t have to try to add new stuff daily, but since Google gives higher ranking to sites with new and regularly updated content, find a feasible but fairly frequent rate. If you aren’t doing so, consider developing an editorial calendar for your blog posts and other website or social media content.
To make things easier for yourself next year, look at your old press releases, blog posts and past speeches to see if there’s a way to repurpose the information. Use some of the questions you get from the media or you see on online forums as starting points for a new blog post or position paper.
Also, since the media landscape is always changing, check to see if there are new outlets, mergers, closings, layoffs, or contact information changes that may have escaped your attention. You can call broadcast stations and publications or you can opt to use media directories, databases and services that can be used for this purpose, from premium pricing options like Cision to the more cost-effective Wooden Horse Publishing.
While by no means a comprehensive overview of all the tasks needed to prepare for 2016, these things are essential for being a better communicator as you make your plans for the next. So, add them to your to-do list so you can kick butt in the New Year.