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How to gain the competitive edge in defence communication
Implementing a successful communications campaign can transform a company’s profile. Georgia Pickering, Managing Director of CMS Strategic, a defence specialist communications agency, explains how:
What is “strategic communications”?
Communication is an essential element of successful business operations. And, for small businesses operating in a complex and multifaceted global sector such as Defence, the implementation of effective strategic communications is game changing.
Sitting across management strategy, leadership, and communications, strategic communications focuses on delivering decisive narratives and messaging to targeted audiences through several different channels: public affairs; digital media; marketing and advertisements; PR and media coverage; reputation management; white papers, and thought leadership.
Developing a communications plan to guide this activity is critical for several reasons:
• Centralises intent and objectives of all internal stakeholders
• Maps target audience and external stakeholders
• Provides a framework or all external outreach to ensure clear and consistent messaging
• Maintains year-round momentum with timely messaging
• Proactively supports business development opportunities
How to develop a narrative
At the heart of all successful strategic communications campaigns is a compelling narrative. For businesses in Defence, this should draw together the insight of the senior leadership, with the requirements of the business development team, the expertise of the engineers, and an understanding of the wider context in the customer and end-user community.
Defence suppliers seeking to raise their profile should distil this messaging into an “elevator pitch” that can be adapted for various external communications opportunities. It is important to learn your brand voice and personality when developing the key messages. Do not describe your company as an “innovative solution provider”, try and distil what problems your capability or service solves, who it is used by, and where there is realistic opportunity for growth.
It is important to tailor company narrative to different audiences, if national defence media or politicians: why is this in the public interest? For specialist industry media: what is unique about the capability / technology? What are the proof points?
Build the collateral that supports your narrative – images, videos, case studies all help to tell your story.
Once a communications plan is agreed, the business must work to build its relationships with target individuals that can help influence the way the brand is presented to the market. Developing a network of trusted Defence media professionals and political representatives is a good place to start and it is important to build a rapport before you need them.
Research areas of specialism and interest that are relevant to your business and reach out with carefully curated introductions relevant to their subject matter expertise. When nurturing a new relationship, make the most of social media, and Teams or Zoom for a virtual introduction. This will lay the foundations for a follow up meeting in person – tradeshows, conferences, and industry events are useful opportunities for this.
It is also important to build relationships with Marketing and Communications representatives from other companies in the sector, as well as in government departments and in the customer community. This network will prove valuable for collaborative campaigns if customer permissions are required, or if there are reputational issues to manage.
Building a Communications Campaign
Having established key messages, points of reference, and the target audience, tactical PR campaigns can be developed to win media coverage and support specific BD bids and objectives.
These include working with the editors and reporters from the defence press to contribute to feature articles relevant to your business; producing guest articles and thought leadership; issuing press releases on significant company news; podcast and panel appearances; integrated digital media activity; media interviews; and contributing relevant expertise to existing news stories.
Maintaining this level of tactical activity will build awareness of your company, as well as credibility in the brand.
What’s the hook for defence media pitches?
Securing “earned” media coverage across different defence outlets is hugely beneficial to any brand. It creates a buzz of awareness, boosts SEO, develops trust, and ultimately delivers leads. Pitch your story to the right journalist at the right time and the impact can be stratospheric.
Be exclusive. Approach journalists in advance and make sure to supply them with information relevant to their editorial plan. Support your messaging with data and facts.
Secure quotes from notable industry stakeholders and facilitate their contact with the reporter.
Keep on top of the news agenda. Geopolitics and current events create all important context to your story.
And remember, it is a journalist’s job to tell stories not to promote products. And don’t forget freelancers!
Maximise your wins!
Once media coverage is secured it’s important to keep leveraging this success: promote it externally on social media channels and internally to ensure your team can also circulate the news.
Set up media monitoring to a the analyse the general industry response to the news coverage.
Continue to develop key relationships between your company and the influential stakeholders identified in the communications plan.
Always stay on top of the news and make sure that you’re following the reporting of key media in the field – an opportunity to contribute to the conversation can often be found.
About CMS Strategic
CMS Strategic is an international specialist communications and PR agency working primarily within high technology sectors such as aerospace, defence, energy, security, and infrastructure.
The CMS team provides proven expert counsel in public, political and media relations, business development, social media, and reputation management. Working closely with our clients, we offer tailored communications campaigns to help their businesses stand out.