Digital Strategy For Beginners

digital Strat

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We all love a good browse through the internet.  So it comes as no surprise that Internet use has been on the increase in recent years, with a record high of 3.58 billion internet users worldwide this past year (statista.com 2017). Smartphones lend explanation to sky rocketing internet use, having given people more convenience to use the internet throughout the day – we have only to think of ourselves, and how frequently we check our own smartphones!

The web has been called “the most important communication revolution in human history” (Meerman,  2013, p26). With that in mind it’s hard to believe that “50% of businesses don’t have an integrated  Digital Marketing Strategy” (Smartinsights.com).  So, it seems there may be some kind of phobia around having or creating a digital presence for businesses. But, never fear! There is nothing to be afraid of, as you’ll see while we walk through this beginners guide on getting started on creating a digital strategy.

 

What is a digital strategy?

We can think about a digital strategy as “a series of actions” carried out to achieve “particular objectives” using technology as an asset to allow for new business avenue or maintain a “competitive edge”  (Mithas and Henry, 2010, p4). This might be, for instance, to generate more visits to your site and further brand awareness.

Why is a digital strategy so important?

As we’ve discussed, the world is becoming more and more digitized, so it’s more relevant than ever that your organization has an online presence and is visible to the online world (Preece, 2001 p4). Besides this, there are so many benefits to a digital strategy…

  • Cost effective –  reduces overhead fees (McGinnity, 2016), we can look to Amazon for reference, who have eliminated the costs of running individual stores in varying locations
  • Delivers “relevant messages more precisely” (Plummer et al, 2007, p7) to costumers through gathering behavioural data – for example, how long they interact with a product, clicks, logins and time spent on a site (Plummer et al, 2007 p7)
  • Allows for further market research (Li and Bernoff, 2011, p34)  – for example, through building communities to listen to, and helps in influencing target audiences.
  • “If you’re not on the internet, you don’t exist!” (Preece, 2001, p6)

With more and more people flocking to the web, digital strategy is ever more important. As Li and Bernoff  (2011) point out, there is a “social trend” wherein people are using technologies “to get the things they need from one another rather than traditional institutions like corporations” (p33), this might be through sites like EBay, Etsy or Amazon. So, it’s vital that organizations attempt to intercept this trend and develop a solid plan (Chaffey and Smith 2013, p6).

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But where do I start?

A great start to understanding strategy is an article by “Michael E.Porter – What is Strategy”. Once you’ve given that a read, we’re ready to move onto the planning process: Chaffey and Smith (2013, p25) have set out 6 stages which can help us keep on track with the planning process. When selecting your objectives, Chaffey and Smith have supplied some additional tips.  Think about the “5s’s”:

  • Sell – “using the internet as a sales tool”
  • Serve – “using the internet as a customer- service tool”
  • Speak – “using the internet as a communication tool”
  • Save – “using the internet for cost reduction”
  • sizzle – “using the internet as a brand- building tool”

(Chaffey and Smith, 2013, p43)

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Exploring Digital Strategy

Creating social media accounts such as a Facebook and Twitter pages are some great first steps to take once you have considered the above plan. It may help in giving a more perceived value to your organization, with many organizations using social media in order to “build advocates” and “engage with communities” (Waddington, 2012, p61)

it’s important to remember that while a digital strategy carried out on social media can be a great way to measure success, it’s not without its potential issues. It can damage a company’s reputation (Chaffey, 2013, p267); we only have to think of the gaffs made by Dove (2017) and McDonalds (2017). Have a read through some of the Do’s and Don’ts of Social media and how to handle your accounts. It may help you avoid some nasty backlash!

You should also consider constructing/redesigning your website; this can be used as a direct one-way communication method. It’s important, at this point, that you position your site properly; who do you want to talk to? And how can you reflect this in usability/content/design of your site (Drayton, 2007, p155). This will insure success in your websites reach, and will allow you to monitor website traffic and impressions (Plummer et al, 2007, p41).  Here are some tips to get you started with your website: 5 Steps to Designing A Great Company Website.

Finally…

Once you’ve given all the above ideas some thought and narrowed it down, be sure to focus to make sure it turns out a success.  While the digital word may seem overwhelming and challenging, it can really boost your organization and place you on the map, so to speak. Give it a go, it’s a learning process, we’re all constantly developing our skills in the fast paced digital world. You never know, you might enjoy it! The exciting digital world gives us a chance to connect with people, explore and develop. Welcome the challenge.

Griana Fox is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/griana-fox-a7561a11b, and on Facebook @ Griana Fox.

Spinning a yarn

The world of politics is something we shouldn’t shy away from, especially from a communication angle, it’s important we all have a vague understanding of it.  It really does affect our everyday lives, from policy to taxation, so it’s important to incorporate keeping up with current affairs into our daily routines – it’s all too easy to fall down YouTube rabbit holes for hours. The U.K have a particular communicative style, from the bustling and shouting in The House of Commons, to the tabloid media and everything in between, communication in politics is rife with interesting techniques and strategies. But first, let’s strip it back to the core.

Image result for uk politics

Public opinion, Political communication and the media go somewhat hand-in-hand.  “Somewhat” because essentially, public opinion is formed in the public domain, outside of any authority. It concerns matters that are discussed and debated about. Simply put, this is our sense of “nation” (Goodin, Pettit, 1997). So, those 2am discussions at your friend’s table can be important- Talking about our thoughts on political matters with those around us, in a democratic society, gives us the ability to act together when it comes to voting. The media, in turn, is how we receive most political communication.

Media relations

It’s been widely discussed that Media relations can be used to craft specific, “tailored” communication for the public, in what’s called “spin” (McNair, 2007). Often, “tailoring” is achieved through marketing strategies, like opinion polling, focus groups or surveys to better understand the electorate. Gaber (2000) divides spins into “above” and “below” the line spin – above concerning the usual press releases, interviews and articles, and “below” usually being associated with spin doctors.

While there are many tactics and techniques used in Political communication, there’s just too much we could go into. Here’s a brief, condensed outline of some of the main devices used in the dark arts of below the line spin.

  1. Staying on the message

This is when a consistent line is kept across political figures so that information isn’t miscommunicated to the public. A great example of this, Labour’s 2003 “FivImage result for five a day campaigne-a-day” campaign, wherein all political members stayed on the message about the benefits of eating your fruit and veg. This allowed political figures to speak as one on the matter, leading to effective communication to the public (One of your Five a Day is still plastered on foods 15 years later).

  1. Spin.

“Spinning a yarn” is a term most of us have heard at one point or another. We’d associate this with telling a story, which gives us some meaning for this tactic. Spin provides context to a story, or a certain interpretation. We can think back to the Brexit Campaigns, with leavers claiming economic gains for the UK severing relationships with the E.U. Spin offers a perspective to the public, usually, to shed a “favourable” light on matters and make one thing sound more appealing than the other or protect reputation and to “sway” public opinion (Wilcox et al, 2015) .

Image result for Brexit headline nhs(Source: http://www.themediablog.co.uk/the-media-blog/2016/02/ukip-candidate-dislikes-the-eu-shocker.html)

  1. Agenda Setting

Ever tried to steer the conversation a certain way? Maybe you’ve a point you want to get to, news to share or hide. I think we’ve all been guilty of trying to avoid talking about certain topics at one point or another. What we didn’t realise, that on a much smaller scale, we were implementing “agenda setting”. This is the act of controlling what is discussed, the scope of discussion and how it is discussed. This can take forum in giving journalists exclusives, deciding the time frame of when news is exposed.

  1. Fire Breaking

You could think of this is pointing far away and shouting “Fire!” in hopes that it’ll distract people enough so you can throw your rubbish out the back door. Basically, setting up a diversion, or “planting” stories to take the medias attention away from a scandal (Gaber, 2000). A successful enough case of this was the Cook affair (1999), it was exposed that the then Foreign Secretary was having an affair, so to avoid a sex scandal (there’s been a fair few), Peter Mandleson, former Director of Labour’s Communications, suggested saving Britannia to media outlets- a hot topic at the time. This in turn, set the news agenda, as it stole the headlines, leaving the Cook affair in the dust.

Image result for throwing out rubbish

  1. “A good day to bury bad news”

This one is a bit “next level” House of Cards. Burying bad news refers to releasing somewhat unfavourable information while the media’s attention is redirected on to another issue. Probably the most famous example of this was right after 9/11 when former press officer, Jo Moore, told her team “It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors’ expenses?”. Essentially, living in the hope that something happens at the time of a scandal so the media is too concerned with other matters to focus on your dirty laundry.

In conclusion…

You can see how these tactics can be useful to keep in mind, because it allows others (and us) to set the scope, frame and as a whole, improve our media relations skills. Being aware of these techniques, whether you agree with them or not, can help us better understand the wider world around us. They could prove useful across many kinds of campaigns, not just political ones. Keeping a consistent line between staff, for example, can help in communicating a message a lot more clearly, than if everyone was running around telling us something different.

The thought of actually going and watching Prime Ministers Question Time 4 years ago would have sent shivers down my back, but once you start to familiarise yourself with it, a massive interesting world opens up, and in turn, it helps us better our communication skills, and be aware of how we communicate and the best ways to carry it out.  Make grabbing the newspaper in the morning, tuning in to PMQ on Wednesdays or even just following a few political figures on Twitter part of your routine, with these tactics in mind we’ll learn a lot about press management, as a P.R practitioner this is a very valuable skill.

References:

Gaber, I. (2000) ‘Government by spin: an analysis of the process’, Media, Culture & Society 22, p508-p532

Goodin and P. Pettit (1997), Contemporary Political Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, p73-p124

McNair, B (2007) PR must die: spin, anti‐spin and political public relations in the UK, 1997– 2004 Published online: 17 Feb 2007, p03-p47

Negrine, R. Stanyer, J. (2007) The Political Communication Reader. London: Routledg, p254

John Wiley & Sons. Wilcox, DL, Reber, B.H. and Cameron, GT. (2015) Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics. 11th ed. Harlow: Pearson Education. p248-p295

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1358985/Sept-11-a-good-day-to-bury-bad-news.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1997/aug/09/labour.mandelson

Griana Fox is a final year CMPR student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/griana-fox-a7561a11b, and on Facebook @ Griana Fox.