This post is by Anton Buchner, a senior consultant with TrinityP3. Anton is one of Australia’s leaders in data-driven marketing. Helping navigate through the bells, whistles and hype to identify genuine marketing value when it comes to technology, digital activity, and the resulting data footprint.
Collaboration software, stand up meetings, digital asset management systems, email protocols etc are all aimed at creating consistency of communication and standards in today’s changing world.
However most business leaders we speak with are still struggling to achieve real internal consistency.
And the challenge isn’t limited to internal consistency.
Business leaders are also struggling to maintain consistency when it comes to their external marketing communications.
With the increased focus on short-term performance, and increasingly short attention spans, it’s easy to stray off brand as data discussion, lead quality, conversion rates, and programmatic activity take centre stage.
So is it possible to achieve consistency?
I guess it depends on your view of what consistency is.
Is it having a consistent strategy that binds together core value messaging but allows freedom of executional expression?
Is it about being ‘on brand’ in terms of look and feel and being vigilant in sticking to brand guidelines?
Or is it about adhering consistently to brand values and a clearly defined purpose?
None are wrong. All of the above are fine. However when it comes to consistency, the point is actually being consistent to something.
I worked with a brand manager a couple of months ago who was intent on creating major campaigns that were completely different every 2 months.
Whilst they were on business strategy (well loosely), it was a huge amount of effort and budget to get the activity to market. And just as the campaigns were in the ‘can’, the team was onto the next campaign.
Ultimately it was inconsistent for the end-user target audience, ie: consumers like you and me. What did this brand stand for? Why was it chopping and changing? And why was it being so inconsistent?
Hence it prompted this post.
Here are a few tips on how to remain consistent in today’s changing world:
5 tips for internal consistency
1. Lead from the top.
The CEO and Senior Leadership Team (SLT) need to be aligned and consistent. We see many SLTs infighting with each other. We see ego taking over and individuals moving in their own direction for self-interest rather than the business as a whole. Their teams can spot it a mile away.
Even if you don’t agree to a decision the SLT makes, it’s critical to accept the decision and work consistently towards achieving it.
One of the easiest ways to hold an SLT to account is to ensure that it has agreed to meaningful business and brand values, a defined personality, and the tone of voice to express that personality.
2. Explain why decisions are made
We often come across staff frustrated with senior management for coming up with the next hair brain idea. They don’t know where the idea came from and why they’re actually acting on it.
They’re told to just do it.
So as senior management, it’s imperative that you explain why an idea or decision is important. And most importantly how it is delivering on the business strategy and goals.
3. Develop an internal communication strategy
It sounds crazy, however, have you actually got an internal communication strategy or are you winging it?
You will obviously need to detail who needs to know what, when they need to know it, how often they need to be communicated with, and how you’re actually going to communicate.
This should all be mapped out. And once done, you will have overcome many of the major obstacles that we encounter: silo thinking, informing teams too late in the process, meeting employee’s expectations, confusion over jargon and language.
4. Establish processes that work for your business
I generally don’t like the word process. That’s just me. However you will need some level of process to ensure communication consistency.
Some clients look to technology solutions to help streamline processes. Eg: stakeholder approval and workflow management systems which allow for document editing and approval in a central place.
However, other clients prefer more simplified processes such as allocating a resource to own internal communications, whether that be creating blog posts, arranging the company newsletter, taking and disseminating meeting notes and actions, setting up the regular forums for knowledge sharing etc.
Either way, you will need clear processes that create consistency without making employees beholden to the process. Remember it’s not about a process for process sake. It’s about making employee’s lives easier and maintaining a consistent flow of communication through the business.
5. Create circular feedback loops
As team structures flatten, and as more staff are empowered to make decisions and take action, it will be important to have rigorous feedback loops.
People want to be listened to, and most importantly want their opinions acted upon.
So whether you conduct employee surveys, establish specific team feedback sessions, or have an ‘inbox’ for ideas and feedback, you need to make sure that you report on the feedback and take action where appropriate.
5 tips for external consistency
1. Agree your target audiences
I was talking with another senior marketing manager yesterday who was exasperated at her senior management peers. She couldn’t believe that they all had different views on who the core target audience was.
They were running a membership-based organisation! You’d think they’d be aligned.
Unfortunately their customer profile system didn’t allow for national versus state segmentation, so everyone had different views on who the real target audiences were and what motivated their behaviour.
So get clear on the WHO before you develop your strategy. This will ensure that you are talking consistently on a personal level rather than a group, category or market-wide level.
2. Use reality rather than researched claims
In order to agree the target audience and develop your marketing strategy you will need some level of research.
We are constantly amazed as to how many clients are paying external research agencies to conduct research based on panels or 3rd party data.
Why spend $50,000 to $100,000 on these when you may have all the data within your business?
Look at your CRM system. Analyse your front line lead nurturing or sales data. Utilise your contact centre and other channel information. There’s plenty of data that you can now access for insights.
We worked with a destination marketer recently who was looking to conduct external research. However when we reminded them that they already had a wealth of data, plus that they could access major attractions for their data and insights, the thinking soon changed.
3. Beware social media as a silver bullet – select your channels wisely
Many clients have ridden the social media wave. Creating a social presence because other brands have. However, now they’re realising, as Mark Ritson explains in this video, that most of this activity is useless.
So get back to business reality and decide the role of social media within your strategy. Don’t spread yourself too thin and risk greater inconsistency.
If you’re using social media as a customer service channel, then be focused on that. However, make sure that you integrate it with all your other service channels whether they be phone, email, App etc.
4. Hire editors
Marketing departments are hiring more and more editors to help develop and maintain a consistent approach to content creation. Especially for owned channels such as blogs, newsletters, magazines and social networks.
A good editor not only maintains consistency in writing style, but also brings fresh perspectives on stories from a user’s viewpoint.
They are trained to maintain reader interest, and can therefore, build compelling stories that are easier to understand, and can be far more effective than the content that your teams may be churning out.
This means that content calendars can be populated by consumer interest stories to deliver on your strategy, rather than purely ideas which your team think are interesting to fill slots.
5. Use results to drive greater consistency
Consistency should build upon previous successes. So it is important to establish benchmarks and then seek to gradually improve upon them to set new benchmarks.
If you are getting dramatically different results, then chances are you are straying off brand and becoming inconsistent.
Point is, measure the impact of your activity.
Often it’s the marketing department getting bored with communication and not the consumer. Why change something that aint broke?
That’s why some of the world’s strongest brands have stayed on top – consistency in branding and consumer benefit. Yet they have managed to evolve their message execution to maintain relevance in a changing world.
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