Communicating the Essentials: Clear Thinking For Cloudy Times

It's no exaggeration to label this period of economic dislocation "The Age of the Essential." In the face of fresh upheaval and threat on all fronts, people are already being forced to make tough, realistic decisions as to what they really value and need.

This means that businesses everywhere will have to compete much, much harder for time and attention from their respective audiences.

In this short series, Infinia suggests how to focus on the Essential by offering brand marketing communication guidelines on how to keep talking (both internally and externally) in the current environment, how to stay relevant and influential, and how to impact behavior according to your objectives.

1. Speak Up
First of all, this is not a time for staying silent. You have information worth sharing, so be mindful rather than fearful of communicating; being incommunicado is risking your constituents assuming the worst. Word of mouth is all very well, but you still need meaningful words to begin with - and the vehicles to convey them effectively.
Therefore, it is vital that you build and support such an infrastructure. A robust platform that enables you to say what you want, how you want, and to whom you want, is something that will endure well beyond difficult economic times.

2. Clarity Begins At Home
One important yet continually overlooked audience is the company workforce. Your mission and message has to be understood and adopted by each of your colleagues – and not just in order to retain clients.
Everyone you work with is a potential business development source. Socialize your strategy: make sure everyone knows what you stand for, whom you are addressing, and what distinguishes your business.

3. Mind The Gap
When people understand the "what" and "why" of a defined marketing effort, their productivity and effectiveness increase. Great marketing, communications, design, and brand experiences can help you to effectively close the gap between Strategy and Execution, the exact place where most companies falter.
These tools are vital in fully marshaling your current resources and directing them to achieve what you want to do and say, to whom, and how to get started.

4. Get Nearer To Those You Know
Begin by targeting the clients that you already have. Educating your own workforce on the brand mission enables you to defend those relationships. Don't take them for granted. Connecting with them is less expensive than building general awareness elsewhere, and – considering the cutbacks and outsourcing endemic to the current situation - this is precisely the time to try and fill in the gaps in your client's resource base. Accordingly, invest a little in transforming and strengthening the connection through other channels such as the Internet.

5. Reach Out To The Receptive
Prioritize the prospects you want to reach. It's very tempting to take any business in this climate, but methodically working through a wishlist of "good fits" is a far better, and potentially more profitable, use of your time and resources.

6. Tighten Focus, Then The Belt
Examine what brand marketing resources you have; ask why you have them, how you use them, and what their value or ROI is. Look carefully at the performance of your communications. What do they really say? Who are they intended to engage? Are they effective? Can they be strengthened? Often the hardest thing to do is to STOP a program that's already begun; but you simply have to and re-evaluate, especially if it's plainly not working. Focus on the areas of operation where there is clear value. Cutting costs shouldn't entail cutting corners or your bottom line - just dead limbs.

With any era that is defined or heralded by crisis comes business reappraisal and, more significant, opportunity. Those who take this chance to act decisively and positively, to take stock and refine their marketing communications model in a manner that acknowledges the New Essentials, are the ones who will not only survive, but succeed.

Ron Cappello is the founder and CEO of Infinia Group, a brand strategy and design firm based in New York City. He can be contacted at 212-463-5101 and [email protected].

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