How to Develop Effective Communications Strategies: The SNIPER approach

December 16 2019

The marketplace has often been described as a war zone, and your communications plan has to win the battle for the attention of audiences and most importantly, their buy-in. As the new year approaches, many brands and organizations would be in the midst of planning their next phase of communication. Broadly, we can see two strategies that are often used.

The “machine gun” strategy is where you fire a barrage of messages at your audience. Unfortunately, like the machine gun, the vast majority of them won’t hit the target where and how you need to. That’s a lot of bullets wasted.

On the other hand, the “sniper” strategy is where you fire a single message that has been carefully aligned to your audience. Like a sniper, it takes a longer time to plan the shot. However, it has a much higher success rate.

With the limited number of “bullets” (resources) we have, which communications strategy do you think has better chances to deliver better results? In my opinion, the sniper strategy may be a better option.

Here are six steps to help develop a great SNIPER communications strategy.

  1. SEE where you are right now
    Situation analysis is always an important first step. Take a step back to evaluate all the communication efforts you and your team have implemented thus far. SWOT and PEST analyses can help you determine where you are now in the communications and perceptions landscape. Review critically which initiatives or campaigns have made an impact among your audience that you can further leverage on. Evaluate whether there’s a coherent and clear message being sent, and more importantly, if your audience has received and understood it.
  2. NAIL DOWN your communication objectives
    Any communication strategy should closely reflect the organization’s direction or goals. The best thing to do is to engage internal stakeholders to gain clarity. Ask what outcomes the organization wants to achieve or the messages it wants to convey. Once you set the benchmark or direction, use it as a guide to evaluate your current communications strategy and align future strategies to them. Having firm objectives will go a long way to identifying and eliminating unproductive work.
  3. IDENTIFY your target audience
    If you listed something like ‘general public’ as your audience, that’s the machine gun strategy. You’ll need to think again about who your audiences are in order to formulate a more effective SNIPER strategy. In my previous PRGN blog post, I wrote about how vastly diverse Asia is and how that is reflected across media platforms and media consumption patterns. Properly understanding different audience segments will help you reach the audiences that matter. It also makes it easier to customize your messages and stories. Is your audience local, regional, national or global? What media do they consume? What are their cultural sensitivities? The only way to answer these questions is through good research.
  4. PICK your key messages
    Now it’s time to break it all down into key messages for your audiences. These messages are the foundation of the organization’s branding and communication efforts and should be reflected in all communication materials, such as website copy, press materials, talking points, speeches, social media posts and others.
  5. ELICIT ideas
    Brainstorm ideas with the team to list communication activities that match the communications strategy. Make sure to include timelines and milestones so you can track your progress. Make sure to allocate enough resources to ensure the plan can be delivered. If you’re working on a limited budget, then you are going to need to get more creative!
  6. REVIEW and evaluate
    The final and most important point – don’t set your plan in stone. Routinely revisit and measure your communication results to ensure that your plan is in line with your strategic goals. Don’t hesitate to revise and realign if you have to, especially if you need to address current trends, research or issues that may impact your organisation. Invest in market research and engagement platforms to gain insights into your stakeholders so that you can make informed decisions when tailoring your communications strategy.

As you develop your communications plan for the year ahead, do consider the way of the sniper. Happy planning!

Andy See
Founder, Principal Partner & Managing Director, Perspective Strategies
After spending more than 10 years working with leading multinational and Malaysian consultancies including The Boston Consulting Group and Edelman, Andy decided to reinvent his career by setting up his own firm. This led to the birth of Perspective Strategies in 2006. The boutique agency grew quickly with the promise of delivering strategic counsel and quality services to clients and has over the years won numerous industry awards on the global and national levels. Aside from steering the firm’s strategic direction and managing key client relationships, Andy regularly conducts spokesperson training and speaks at industry events on strategic communications, issues management and stakeholder engagement. Currently, he is the President of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia), spearheading efforts to champion the interest of PR professionals including industry best practices, quality and standards as well as talent development.  Since 2017, Perspective Strategies has been part of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), one of the world's leading independent PR agency networks. Andy is on the Executive Committee, serving as Secretary and Regional Vice-President for Asia Pacific (APAC). As Regional Vice-President, Andy leads PRGN's initiatives in growing the network's presence in APAC by pushing to enhance communication, improve coordination and drive momentum at the regional level. Andy also actively contributes articles and thought leadership pieces on PR, leadership and strategic communications in various publications and online platforms.

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