Updated: Aug 19, 2020
How to create a communications hierarchy for your business that increases operational effectiveness and ensures key moments stand out.
A communications hierarchy prioritises the brand moments that matter most and enables a marketing team to do less, better
One of my clients - an exciting company, with a strong innovation-focused product, who are committed to improving standards in the industry in which they operate – takes a week to collate their quarterly marketing reports. This is because, while they are a small team, they deliver an impressive amount of activity, week in, week out. They run client and industry events, produce several high-quality videos a month, draft and release white papers, work with the sales team, own the brand, lead on marketing strategy, oh and did I mention they are totally redoing their website this year? The Marketing Director recognised that the team were already working extremely hard, and with some major projects in the pipeline, it was time to prioritise.
Do better, not more
A communications hierarchy considers all your outbound collateral, communication and other client touchpoints and weights them by a defined grading system. The reasons for introducing a communications hierarchy are twofold:
If you are producing lots of content but you haven’t put a communications hierarchy in place, the danger is you put the same amount of effort into everything that goes out, leading to ineffectiveness or ‘burnout’. A communication hierarchy guides allocation of resources – time, money and effort.
High impact marketing:
It can be difficult for clients to make sense of the importance of each piece of content without differentiation. For example, a white paper may take a fraction of the time and cost it takes to produce the annual financial report and accounts for a company. But, if both a monthly white paper, and your annual financial report and accounts have blue front covers, and both are announced by the CEO in a web news article, and both have a 3-day LinkedIn campaign followed by a webinar – how does a client know which to pay the most attention to? Your content ends up competing for attention with itself and the chances are, both fade into a sea of blue.
A communication hierarchy ensures key marketing moments stand out, and are not diluted by day-to-day communications.
How to create a communications hierarchy
1. Understand your touchpoints:
Start by auditing everything that clients interact with – include everything from social media posts to pitch presentations and proposal templates
2. Divide and conquer:
Define 3-5 ‘buckets’ that your communications fit into and scale them from low to high impact.
3. Look consistent:
Within each band, it is important your communications are consistent in their design, regularity and the associated promotion activity.
This acts as a signpost for clients. They know what to expect, and it has the added benefit of meaning you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Here is an example of how Network Homes uses consistent brand application on their various communication bands.
4. When to advise, when to automate:
High impact will typically be less regular communication events with high levels of marketing, brand, design and digital involvement.
High impact takes senior marketing leadership, time and creativity.
It is important to hire the right people with the skills to deliver your high-impact activity.
Low impact will be more regular, business-as-usual communication events.
Design might be paired back, and marketing involvement may be limited to managing automation, review and sign-off or simply ensuring the right brand templates are in place and channels, such as e-marketing, are ready to go.
Invest in getting the right templates or automation in place to free up time to concentrate on resource consuming, high-impact activity
5. Assign appropriate resource:
Decide what activity goes against which rating and how much design, leadership and digital support each activity requires.
6. Finally, subdivide if you required
Consider whether your business needs more than one communication hierarchy.
As an example: A Built Environment Contractor may have a communication hierarchy for each industry they operate in, (e.g. Infrastructure, Industrial and Real Estate), by region, by content theme (e.g. Future of Logistics, Modular Construction and Radical Safety on Site) or by audience type (e.g. Gold customers, signature architects, developers and institutes).
I'd love to hear how your organisation is making sure your communications stick. And as always, if you need any support creating high impact moments or supercharging your marketing activity, please click here to connect.