Every society, every civilisation, every race, devised their own way to communicate to its people about its achievements, about their divine right to lead, as well as their claims of religious authority of the king to lead the people. A few examples of early propaganda are a clay tablet found in ancient Iraq promoting more advanced agricultural techniques or the pyramids, obelisks and statues by Babylonian, Egyptian and Persian leaders.
Ancient Greece had a special affinity for advocacy as a tool with “sophists”. Julius Caesar wrote the first campaign biography promoting his military successes. In medieval Europe, craftsmen organised into guilds that managed their collective reputation. In England, Lord Chancellors acted as mediators between rulers and subjects.
Congregatio de Propaganda (“congregation for propagating the faith”), created by Pope Gregory XV, was used to train missionaries. It was only during the World War II that the term propaganda got associated with negative connotation.
So as we can see, historically, communication has been used to drive key agenda, including growth. Things have not changed today, and all it takes is to incorporate strategy to transform communication into a growth driver.
B2C versus B2B
In B2C it is always about spreading far and wide. It is like carpet bombing and maximising the impact. In B2B the set of potential as well as existing clients is pretty large, thus it warrants channels that can give maximum reach. Consider Amazon, every reader of a leading newspaper becomes a potential client. So it pays for B2C companies to heavily spend.
In case of B2B, however, it is a very different story.
B2B clients are not spread across the space so they need to be treated very differently.
Strategising B2B Communication
The first step of strategising is to do a SWOT analysis wherein you identify organisational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And then you do a similar analysis for communications. Then comes the key role of aligning the two. For corporate communication to play a strategic role in driving growth of an organisation it is important that communication aides the company in achieving the strategic objectives utilising the strengths and opportunities available, leveraging on this alignment.
Identifying the target audience
The next step for a communicator is to identify the target customer and cluster them as per their attributes.
For example, client can be divided into two segments such as existing and potential. Then you have other stakeholders such as internal customers or employees, promoters and partners. Once the key stakeholders are identified then a communicator needs to further drill down and identify how to reach key decision makers in each of these segments.
The target audience classification needs to be very exhaustive as in B2B only target and customised communication works.
The identification of key clients needs to have an alignment with the business needs of the organisation so that it can achieve its strategic objective.
What to communicate
Once you have clarity till the last level of communication it is time to identify the content. Relevance as well as packaging of content holds the key to strategic engagement of a key stakeholder.
It becomes easy when you put yourself in the shoes the recipient. For example, a CXO will not like to see a pitch document, he/she will be more interested in very crisp one or two pager knowledge pieces on business trends. This will help you become relevant to the CXOs. Similarly, when handling media you have to be careful of the relevance of news that you want them to publish. The news needs to have a wider appeal to the readers of the publication. While it may be the cover story of your internal magazine, the same news may not be relevant at all to an editor.
In some cases you may have to share the same news across multiple target audience but then the same news needs to be packaged accordingly. The internal magazine cover story may be reduced to a line in CXO communication.
Therefore, both packaging and content matter.
Strategy remains the key
In a B2B organisation the name of the game is strategic alignment to the organisational goals. Every communication – media, branding, corporate, financial, internal, social media, etc. – needs to have the objective of enhancing the business of the organisation. Every communication needs to have a strategic alignment. It is very important for a communicator to not be confined to a silo and always keep an eye on the big picture. The thinking needs to move from tactical to strategic.
The objective of a communicator has to be to convert communications into a growth driver for the organisation.
Crisis in B2B
A crisis in B2B sector comes in a very different shape than B2C. Again strategic communications can play a key role in managing the crisis.
First is to identify the span of the crisis and which of the client clusters are impacted. Then the job is to find out every relevant information on the crisis. Also it is important to have a sound sense of the business so as to know the nuances of the impact of the different segments as it is bound to be different. Once these are in place, only then communicate. Communication also needs to be measured so as to minimise the impact. Both excess and lack of communication can be detrimental. And with the onset of digital media, the vigilance quotient has to be pretty high, even for B2B companies.
Organisations are realising the power of communications in running a business. And strategy is the conduit that connects the overall organisational objectives with communication. In B2B this conduit plays a key role in making communication a key growth driver for an organisation, which otherwise, if not listed publicly, will choose to remain silent and out of the radar.