Thinking Ahead: Building your Communication Playbook

We are living in a time of uncertainty, as both marketers and consumers, which has a bright side. There is so much opportunity to do right by customers and partners.  

As parts of the country open back up, albeit in limited capacities and with varying public policies, we lean into the concept of playbooks to help drive ongoing brand messaging and communication. A simple playbook could consist of just three chapters: marketing channels, people, and customers. Within each chapter, include messaging, content topics, and timing.   

Don’t let this scare you.  

It does not have to be an exhaustive exercise, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. If we’ve learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that time is of the essence. Your customers and local partners are looking for guidance. They are seeking information. They are looking for reassurance.

Chapter 1: Defining your Marketing Channels
Where do you start in building your playbook? The first step is to define your marketing channels (traditional, social, email, website, search, etc.) along with the purpose for each.  In our last post, the importance of understanding marketing performance was noted and is a key input here as well. Message overlap is okay, but consider the engagement factor each channel affords to maximize cross-channel investment. Some components to consider mapping include: 

  • Priority media mix 
  • Offers and promotions 
  • Partnerships and influencers 
  • Products and services 
  • Local operations

Chapter 2: Informing your People
The second step focuses on internal communication or the “people” chapter in your playbook. Our clients span a variety of industries and business structures, with most having a distributed sales model. That means “people” can include employees, partners, or both. Given the continued uncertainty, there is no such thing as over communicating. Not only do your people need to know exactly what and how to execute, but they are also the link between the partner and the end consumer. Clear communication drives trust and confidence. When your people have confidence in your brand, consumers will have confidence in your brand, too.  

Many clients have separate roles for internal, national brand, and partner communications. We see an opportunity for greater connection among the three. It’s these folks that own employee communications, the customer database, the technology that manages and prioritizes messages and timing at the national level, and the partner marketing technology and program budgets that facilitate messaging at the local or partner level.   

Some content topics for this section of the playbook could include: 

  • Processes and procedures 
  • Approved messaging and offers 
  • Assets and collateral 
  • Digital tools and technologies 
  • Resources and support, both for your people themselves and FAQs or Q&A for topics they might be asked from consumers

Chapter 3: Engaging your Customers
The final section in your playbook is for consumers, and it will probably be your biggest!  

If you haven’t already, developing a general COVID-19 section that is applicable to all audience groups will be beneficial. This is where an engagement framework for each customer segment can live. We touched on these questions in our first post in this series: who are the customers purchasing from you, what are their needs, what are their interests, and how should you talk to them? Knowing segment size and value will further help determine offers and promotions. We also previously talked about tracking the data for behaviors, products, and services to see what has worked and what hasn’t. These content topics have a place in the playbook for behavior-driving messages you want to start, stop, or continue.    

Like your people, customers want to know that you are taking steps to keep them safe and aware of any new rules of operations. If you have not already, a COVID-19 response landing page or “how we’re serving you” section on your website might be a good idea. Be sure there are also prominent links to this information hub across your communication tactics. The more you can communicate upfront, the less confusion there will be for your people and customers. At this point, you no longer need dedicated COVID emails. Instead, implement easily editable content blocks that can be layered into all communications. These will work to keep messages current and consistent.   

When it comes to the messaging by audience segment, some content topics could include: 

  • Products and services they’ve used, or customers like them have used 
  • Targeted offers and promotions 
  • Edutainment: informative and engaging (could be partner or influencer-driven) 
  • Location hours and available services (geo-based) 

If your brand has paused consumer communications, we encourage you to explore all options to return to advertising and organic engagement. We understand that the impact across verticals is incredibly diverse, but all research indicates there is a bigger impact in the long term if you stay dark. We’re here to help, so please contact us if you’d like to talk more about building your communication playbook. 

By Melissa Pringle

Melissa partners with clients and Ansira team members to design, develop, implement, optimize, and evolve data-driven, one-to-one or “one-to-moment” marketing programs. She is an experience strategist who uses insights and analytics to orchestrate personalized customer relationships, journeys and cross channel experiences to drive engagement and customer loyalty.