Are you Making a Changeover to External Communications?
There’s (at least) one huge problem with it (leaving the atrocious grammar to the side for a moment).
Imagine the following client call:
Client: “Hi there, I was wondering if you could help me, there seems to be a bit of a problem with my order?”
Customer Service: “Certainly sir, what’s the problem?”
Client: “Well, see, I’m working on a high profile construction project and I ordered 10 huge cement blocks to build the walls with. Problem is I seem to have been delivered 9 cement blocks and a sphere. It’s really quite tricky to build walls from spheres”.
Customer Service: “Ah yes, I can see how that might be a problem”.
The key problem with this poster (and alas we can’t claim this be a particularly original observation on our part) is that it gets the idea of ‘efficiency’ and ‘speed’ very confused. People often believe that doing things in an ‘efficient’ way means doing it quickly. But speed is only part of the equation. Something isn’t efficient if it is done quickly, but it fails to meet specifications, or has to be reworked, or sent back completely.
If you aren’t meeting client specifications, you aren’t just being inefficient – you’re committing business suicide. That may sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many firms becoming fixated of automating, speeding-up, being more ‘efficient’ – when what they’re really doing is just cutting corners.
What about this alternative version? This one makes a lot more sense. Here, the guy who is meant to be working ‘smarter not harder’ is a professional, who has invested in professional resources and knows how to use them effectively. Whoever is in charge of delivering unnecessarily large cement blocks across the desert has done their research, and outsourced the operation to somebody who knows what they’re doing, knows how to do it, and will get it done right, first time, on time.
To outsource, or not to outsource, that is the question.
So outsourcing obviously has a key part to play in the ‘efficiency’ equation – though the decision as to whether it does indeed constitute the right path will be entirely contextual. If you’re Amazon, then it makes sense that you’re going to implement your own logistics network, but if you’re a small home-grown artisan jam maker, it makes sense to use FedEx to get your product to your client.
So what about communications? Are you being efficient in this field? Are you handling it in-house or outsourcing? And most importantly, are you rolling out spheres when you should be churning out cubes?
Communications – be that marketing, PR, social media presence or something more general – are tricky beasts. You can be hitting the deadlines, getting the posts out, meeting the word counts – and somehow still missing the mark. Particularly in the technology industries, it can be difficult to find a voice that has true mastery over the technological elements at the heart of what you do, but can also effectively communicate a tone and brand that a) represents you well, and b) resonates well with your customer base – existing and potential. You want somebody handling your communications who can have all the efficiency of the cube-carrying forklift, but doesn’t go as zany and off-piste as to be rolling spheres across your desert (am I stretching that poster metaphor a bit far at this point?)
So when you delegate in this field, there are a series of checks you need to go through to make sure you’re getting what you need: maximum value and impact, minimum fuss and effort.
Does the communications firm you’re looking at get your technology?
How long are you going to have to spend not just briefing them on the specifics of your product, but on industry standards, trends and conventions? It can be subtle, but a reader from the industry instantly knows whether a writer is speaking from a perspective of authority on the subject, or regurgitating half-baked lines of technical specification, without understanding how it interlocks or why it matters. The firm you choose needs proven experience in the field. They need to talk with knowledge and authority on highly technical issues.
Does the communications firm get you?
It’s not wishy-washy marketing stuff, businesses really do have a personality. Sometimes that will be artificially controlled, but very often – and especially in smaller firms – it’s simply a natural amalgamation of the personalities of the people within. This has the potential to translate to your brand voice very easily. Some firms like to play it straight, some love humour and subversion. Some prefer an aggressive and forthright strategy, others play it a little niche. The firm you choose needs to have a natural ‘feel’ for your business identity, and the ability to translate it well in communications.
Are they really going to make life easier?
We all know that the more stakeholders in a project, the more complex it can get. There’s a fine line to be made between delegating effectively, and having so many people involved that the task becomes unmanageable. Whoever you pick as a communications partner needs to clearly be there to make things easier, not more complex or muddy.
One of the greatest ‘barriers’ to making a changeover to external communications is the fact that setting up that relationship can feel incredibly time-consuming. As mentioned before, if the content is getting out, if you’re getting PR out to a magazine here or there, it can feel like things are working, so “why fix it if it ain’t broke?”. But not broken doesn’t necessarily mean working well.
A good first step is to start analysing just how much effort goes into delivering your communications. It can feel like a social media post should be a matter of minutes – it’s easy stuff, right? After all, teenagers are doing it all the time. But take the time to analyse: how long did it to find or write the source material, extrapolate from it, schedule it, make sure it is coherent with a wider calendar and strategy, and monitor and feedback on its performance? And that’s just for one post.
Now try and multiply that investment of time and effort over your whole communications strategy. When properly analysed, what seems like a small job, or a job that isn’t a ‘core’ function suddenly seems to be having an inordinate amount of impact on your organization’s efficiency. Add to this the creation of PR (vital for announcements,campaigns and press coverage), case studies (great sales tools) and blog posts (a seriously strategic way to leverage your brand position more effectively) and outsourcing isn’t just a good idea, it becomes a necessity.
Where to go from here?
The question is: when you’re outsourcing your communications, how much does the communications firm just get it? Are they on the same wavelength, and able to produce content that genuinely feels like something you would have authentically said? If these elements seem to be met prima facie, then there’s nothing to stop you ‘trialing’ a relationship. Whilst many PR, communications and marketing strategies do need time to build real, visible results that can actually be measured with metrics (we suggest a minimum of six months), you can get a quick feel for the ‘click’ between you and a communications firm through a short-term engagement – say, for instance, the build-up to a tradeshow.
It’s here that one of our central mantras comes in. Make time to save time (Our grandma might have said ‘a stitch in time saves nine’). It might take time to seek out the right communications partner for you, but with communications, there’s actually a lot less technical complexity to sift through. Simply, if you feel like there’s a click between you and a communications company, half of the battle is won.
After that, so long as they truly are good at what they do, then the ‘getting up to speed’ portion of the relationship should be relatively quick. If they do indeed have the technical expertise you need, and the ability to ‘read’ your identity, then the hard work should transfer to them pretty quickly after your initial consultation call.
The sales bit
Content has to come with a close, right? Whatever valuable content you’ve delivered to your customer base, the last thought you want to leave them with is one of your firm. That’s conventional wisdom. So logically, we need to end this post telling you why you need to outsource communications to Xpresso.
Well, we’re not going to do a hard-sell for Xpresso on the points that we raised above. Certainly, we hope this blog shows you that we’re aware of the challenges that face our potential clients, and yes, we think that the way we’ve structured our operations (which you can find more about here) mean that we manage the balance between technical understanding and brand- building exceptionally well, and we make life easy, because we know what we’re doing – so we do it right, and we do it fast.
But ultimately, like we said – it’s about ‘click’. And we are the first to recognise that you may feel a click with other firms just as strongly – or maybe even more so. Because ultimately, even technology branding is about people, and you can’t completely regulate for that – you can only discover it through real and meaningful contact. The best we can say is: if you recognise that communications outsourcing is an important next step for you – why not pick up the phone and see how much we click?