Taking the dinner party approach to communication (or how to prepare not to fail)

Don’t know about you but if I’m having family or friends over for dinner, I like to do a bit of forward planning.

strategy-campaignI’ll consider the food my guests do and don’t like to work out a suitable menu. I’ll then refer to my recipe books and buy the ingredients I need.

If at all possible, I won’t wait to the last minute to look in my fridge and pantry and serve up whatever is there. Unless I’m a highly talented chef (which I’m not), I don’t think it would work out to be a successful dinner.

Now, this isn’t an article about cooking.  Although, its genesis is from a flyer I found in my letterbox that supplied a winter-warming soup recipe.

However, the flyer wasn’t about cooking either. Rather, it was from a local real estate agent. I thought, interesting, I’ll delve a bit deeper to see if it was part of some bigger and exciting PR and marketing concept.

I checked the agent’s web page. Nope, no more information there about the recipe or how it was part of their services.  No mention on social media sites either.*Sigh*

Disappointingly, I could only conclude this was someone’s ad hoc idea to maybe, hopefully, possibly get a potential client to hold on to their contact details. Unfortunately, ad hoc tactics rarely work.

The difference between communication success and failure is strategy.  

That’s to say, knowing what you want to achieve, who you are trying to target and what goals you are setting. From this strategy, you can develop campaigns targeting specific audiences to promote particular products or services. It’s not until you’ve understood all of that, can you conceive the tactics or ideas that will best resonate with your audience.

To put it another way, your strategy is the menu, your campaigns are the recipes and your tactics are the ingredients which help pull it together.

Therefore, what was I expecting from my real estate friends?

  • Maybe a campaign on how to make your house warm and cosy for a winter sale.
  • Possibly a hashtag to keep up-to-date with a series of helpful hints on social media.
  • More details on their website about how to present your house for a winter sale by enticing buyers with great aromas and a homely feel.
  • Then perhaps a Spring-themed campaign for those looking at selling later in the year.

That would have would have been much more fulfilling and memorable.

As Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

I’m sure you wouldn’t want a dinner party to fail because of a lack of preparation. Ensure you invest similar effort into your communication ventures to reap better rewards.


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Get inspired with our new Branching Out content marketing package

Package 2Coming up with original and exciting topics and ideas for your content marketing can be a difficult task.

That’s why we’ve launched the Branching Out package to provide inspiration and direction for you on how to deliver content on your website, blogs and social media that will interest and entice.

Download the flyer

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Stars or Black Holes: how the words of your website can impact its success

What comes first when creating a website: the words or the design?

Of course, the answer is the words. Every web developer will tell you, key words and phrases are crucial. Okay, article over you can all go read something else now.

BUT, wait a minute before you rush away. The written bits on your website aren’t just about getting to the top of the Google listings.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an enormous push for organisations of all sizes and shapes to have a web presence. Right now there are approximately 250 million active websites on the internet.1 In Australia, about 45 per cent of Small Businesses have a web presence.2 It really is a crowded space.

It’s no use having a great design if youSo Search Engine Optimisation (also known as SEO or ‘how to ensure people find you on Google’) is now a big thing. Without it, your website is only a small meteor amongst the galaxies of stars, planets and asteroids that, when combined, are known as the internet. Without SEO, your bit of galactic real estate will end up languishing in the outer reaches of this virtual universe where it will remain undiscovered.

Let’s stay with the space metaphor for a bit longer. Google (or any other search engine) is the Hubble Telescope of this data universe. It scans the blur of information to find interesting and relevant bits of content that connect with words or phrases people type into the search box, hence, the significance given to key words.

These words and phrases  send a message to the search engine: ‘Hey, we’re what you’re looking for!’ We’re advised to use keywords and phrases in blogs, news pages and regular updates to continue feeding Google’s insatiable hunger for discovering new content and give you that sought-after page one spot on  Google’s search results. Then – hopefully – it is just one click away and you have new visitor to your website.

The next step is you make sure your website looks appealing and gives a good first impression: nice colours; clean layout; easily navigable etc. So far, so good.

However, now we come to another internet term: bounce rate.

The bounce rate of your website is based on the percentage of people who click onto your site but then leave again without having a good look around. Therefore, a high bounce rate is bad and a low bounce rate is good.

A high bounce rate most likely means your website hasn’t met the expectations of the person looking at the site and the quality of the content is not up to scratch:

“On top of meeting the expectations of your users, you should make sure they understand who you are as a brand, what you stand for and what you’ve got to offer.” 3

Therefore, it’s not single words or standalone phrases that provide the true meaning for your site. Rather, it is how you pull those words together to ‘tell a story’ that resonates with the reader and entices them to keep exploring.

Like any relationship, there needs to be a connection. Your text should pique the curiosity of the reader and provide an indication of the personality and culture of your business. I’m not saying the average plumber should have a website worthy of a Miles Franklin Award but what is written needs to be clear and easy to follow. Importantly, the gist of the text needs to convey to the reader that the business will understand a potential customer’s needs and wants.

Unfortunately, many organisations still place the written copy of their website at the bottom of their budget priorities. For these businesses and organisations, the words on their website tend to be a ‘copy and paste job’ from their brochures, annual reports or flyers or someone will ‘put something together’.

This practice is creating a new problem that has been dubbed the content divide:

“Because it costs nothing but your time to distribute this content, it means that small businesses now can achieve an audience of radio station proportions at no financial outlay at all….What many e-business commentators neglect to grasp is that the words that fly off their fingertips to create this online content is something both scary and difficult for many of the world’s smaller business operators. Not everyone is a wordsmith or even that proficient at this kind of communication.”4

The big prediction is that small businesses will miss out once again as the large corporations grab the top spots using higher quality web copy.

Just as businesses are now realising they need professional web developers to design and create the technical aspects or their website, they need to also understand the written content has to be at a professional level. It’s no use having a great design if your web copy is boring and staid. It will lower the reader’s experience.

Google’s search programs are getting smarter at sorting through what is  and isn’t good quality content. There’s little doubt the content divide will eventually impact on website SEO. A few well-placed keywords or the odd blog article will no longer suffice. Good writing will be rewarded by Google. Poor web copy will be penalised and sent to the back of the queue.

Yes, the internet universe, like the real universe, is forever changing. The more we learn about it, the more challenges it presents. However, the challenges are surmountable. A good first step is to ensure your site is one of the internet’s shining stars by investing in well-written copy alongside good design.

Quick tips

  • Always write for the web. People read text differently on a screen to how they read printed materials.
  • Like a novel, your first (home page) needs to hook the reader and make them want to know more.
  • Be engaging. Answer potential questions and understand your audience and why they came looking for you.
  • Page titles and sections on your website must reflect your audience’s needs not your business or organisational priorities.
  • Always proofread. Typographical and spelling mistakes will damage your reputation.
  • If you are able, have your web copy professionally researched and written.


2 Australian Bureau of Statistics

3 How to lower your site’s bounce rate, by Elisha Hartwig, November 2013

Content creates a new digital divide for SMEs, by Craig Reardon, January 2014 

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New Social Climber Communications Package

Social Climber packageCommunication Tree now offers the Social Climber package, specifically designed for small businesses looking to improve how they use social media to connect with their audience and build their brand personality and reputation.

We offer a written strategic plan for your social media that relates to your business goals and follows trends in social media best practice.

More information is available in the attached flyer Communication Tree Social Climber Package (PDF)

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Why media releases aren’t always good PR

media release blog 3I have to start this article with a clarification. Having worked as a journalist and a PR practitioner, I’ve been both the receiver and deliverer of media releases.  As such, I’ve gained a good understanding of what makes a media release successful or not.

As a journalist, media releases could be my saviour to a day of mediocre news. Or, they could be a boring read that went straight into the ‘round’ file.  Never did I consider they were part of someone’s wider communication strategy.

That changed when I passed through the ‘horn’d gates’ into the world of ‘PR dark arts’ (I’m sure that’s how some of my media colleagues saw it).

Now the media release was a beacon for free publicity for my employers’ activities, projects, ideas or events. However, I soon realised this icon of corporate communications shouldn’t have been put on such a pedestal.  I started to advise clients that while media releases are great for media relations (ie, if you need the media to understand a point-of-view or topic), they can be a poor choice if your point is to communicate with the wider community.

I’m not saying you should never use media releases as part of your strategy but they should be only a small part of it.  I’ll tell you why.

Your topic simply may not be newsworthy

Undoubtedly, your news is important to your target market but it may not be interesting enough for the media and your release will be quickly allocated to that ‘round file’.

Your announcement is newsworthy for all the wrong reasons

Yes, your release gets the journalist excited but they take on a completely different angle to the message you’re trying to convey. Your target market then receives a completely different story to the one you wrote.

Your target audience never sees or hears about the news article 

Yay, you got coverage in the media. BUT it was in the ‘briefs’ or buried down on page 32 and was never seen by the people with whom you’re trying to communicate because it was simply overlooked. Worse still, while it may have made it into the radio news or the printed paper, it simply wasn’t worthy enough for them to post on their websites.

What can you do instead?

Firstly, discover more about your intended audience before choosing the best means for communicating with them.

  • If you can access a list of names and addresses for key audience members, contact them directly. Send them a fact sheet or newsletter and give them a chance to respond and ask questions.
  • Post articles on the internet. Don’t just focus on your own website but submit articles to other relevant sites.
  • Hold meetings and invite your target market along to hear from you in person.  A meeting will also give your audience a chance to talk to you and ask questions.
  • And, yes you can take out an ad if it is something that important that it needs to be included in the mainstream or specialist media.

It’s very likely by taking a more thoughtful approach, you’ll gain a greater understanding of your audience.  Better still, you may discover a newsworthy angle to your project or program that actually gets the media excited.

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Gardening tips for social media

twitter flowersWhat do gardening and social media have in common?

Find out from Communication Tree’s Sue Cartwright in her guest blog on the Digital Funk site.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Communication Tree would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

We are looking forward to another exciting year in 2014.

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December 20, 2013 · 10:38 pm