Strategic Communications Disciplinary Theory

The Assignment

                This assignment called Effective Brand Communications consisted of research, analysis and a report on a brand from which Strategic Communications experts can learn. I identified a company and brand that I believed illustrated effective Strategic Communications and is “doing it right.” The company I chose was Always and I focused on its “Like a Girl” campaign. I wanted to display how Always engaged its publics, used multiple communications platforms, and created memorable “sticky” messages. I discussed how these various “tactics” and activities they engage in illustrates this. I identified and analyzed the differences or “blurred” lines between traditional Public Relations and Advertising with this campaign and described what lessons other brands could learn from their strategies.

                In this assignment, I used the principle of “writing to management” in which I imagined I was preparing this report for my supervisor and/or client to educate them on a brand that is doing it right. Writing to management entails producing content in a way that can be easily and efficiently read by a busy supervisor or client that may or may not be initially interested in the report. This can include bold titles, emphasized words or phrases, and bullet points. I wrote this report in a way that would tell them the details of the communications tactics and use specific examples of strategic communications. I tried to persuasively convince my imaginary supervisor and/or client of why the company and its campaign is worthy of study and possibly emulation.

                My ultimate goal was to analyze Always and its “Like a Girl” campaign and educate my imaginary supervisor and/or client and provide them with lessons with substantiation and research. And to make sure they read it, I wanted to delight and impress them with an easy to read, well organized, intriguing report about a company from which we can learn.  This assignment shows that I know what a good campaign looks like and why it’s good. In addition, it shows I’m able to educate others on my team about the campaign and convince them that it may be a good model for our own campaigns. 

Using #LikeAGirl as an insult is a hard knock against any adolescent girl. And since the rest of puberty's really no picnic either, it's easy to see what a huge impact it can have on a girl's self-confidence.

The Class

                This assignment assisted me in understanding effective strategic communications practices for my Strategic Campaigns class. In this capstone course, which is in the School of Communications, I applied strategies and techniques to create a communications campaign for a real client. The client for our class was Alamance Country Club. Our class broke up into teams of five and we analyzed the problems and opportunities the country club has. The marketing director of the country club came in to discuss with our class some of the problems with which she thinks we could help.

                We determined that the country club needed to increase membership and increase awareness that members and non-members are able to hold events at the Alamance Country Club. Half of the teams decided to work on the decreasing membership problem and the other half of the teams wanted to focus on the event opportunities. My team concentrated on membership. Each member of the group also had a specific role. I accepted the position as the Director of Media and Engagement.

                Throughout this process, my team engaged in audience analysis, budget preparation, and the development of a strategic plan for Alamance Country Club.  We had individual and team assignments. Individually, I reported on the Always “Like a Girl” campaign as a campaign to learn from. For this course, we also attended guest speaker events. Adam Lowry, the founder of Method, came to speak at Elon about “the method method.”

                As a group, we needed to create a primary and secondary research plan and synthesize and analyze our findings. We also turned in a report for our communication plan including the mission, objectives, strategies, and tactics we have to boost membership at the Alamance Country Club. I lead the activities and report for the creative and media engagement platform executions and branding because of my Media and Engagement Director position.

                As an aspiring Marketing and Public Relations professional, Strategic Campaigns is the most practical course in the Strategic Communications major. It allowed us to work with a real client with a real problem and present briefs reporting on their opportunities. This class, as well as most other classes in the Communications school, emphasized the importance of working well in teams because in this industry, teamwork is essential.

Disciplinary  Thinking

(THE IMPORTANT PART)

                The School of Communications at Elon University covers several aspects of the industry. There are five majors in the Communications School: Journalism, Strategic Communications, Cinema and Television Arts, Communication Design, and Media Analytics. These wide ranging disciplines allow students interested in communications to focus on what they want to do as a career.

                Often, when I tell my family and friends I’m a Strategic Communications major they ask, “What is that?” Elon is unique because it is one of the few schools in the country that has the Strategic Communications major instead of offering separate majors in Public Relations and Advertising, In the past, we used to define Advertising and Public Relations by what you make, not what you thought. Advertisers make advertisements; Public Relations communicators write press releases and work on PR campaigns. Strategic Communications has become a popular term over the last couple decades and it allows a professional to think with a Public Relations and Advertising in mind. Strategic Communications is the business of communications and the communications of business. It studies the human response to the communication of the business’ message. Unfortunately, since this idea of integrated marketing communications is quite new, there is no How-To or textbook yet. In this class, we had to create the How-To ourselves.

                Nike’s “If You Let Me Play” advertisement from 1995 is a great example of Public Relations in the form of an advertisement. The advertisement displays young girls finishing the sentence, “If you let me play sports…” Some of the answers are “I will have more self-confidence,” “I’ll be less likely to get pregnant before I want to,” and “I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me.” This advertisement isn’t asking its audience to buy a product. However, its purpose is to spread good feelings toward the brand. These marketers realized that they could create a specific perception in customers’ minds concerning the qualities and attributes of their product. This audience perception is called “the brand.” Basically, an organization’s brand is what its prospect thinks of when he or she hears the brand name. It's everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand—both factual (i.e. It has a swoosh on the side of the shoe) and emotional (i.e. It supports female athleticism and female self-confidence). That emotional attachment between a brand and its audience is essential for good brand awareness. Always realized that it’s a bit difficult for a woman to have an emotional attachment with pantiliners—which is associated with the worst week of a woman’s month. Instead of trying to force a connection that will most likely never happen, Always decided to explore strategic communications methods and mix Public Relations with Advertising to create a positive brand perception, that may, in turn, lead to more sales. After a woman sees this campaign, most likely the Always brand will catch her eye when she’s out buying period supplies, even with all of the surrounding competition.

                My brief on the Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign displays the same theoretical framework. The campaign isn’t saying, “Buy Always pantiliners.” It’s letting women, young and old, know that Always is on their side. Always is rooting for women everywhere and in every stage of their lives.  This campaign creates a discussion about self-confidence between the company and its audience as well as between its audience members. This campaign is present on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Vine, on the Always website, and in highly respected news articles and magazine blogs. Really, this campaign is talked about all over the internet for promotional purposes and because people love it and want to express their opinions.

                Always wants us to rewrite the rules which is exemplified when the video asks, “Why can’t ‘run like a girl’ also mean ‘win the race’?” Always is asking girls and women all over the country to share their “like a girl” moment on social media. If you search Instagram for #LikeAGirl, hundreds of thousands of posts come up of women sharing their stories of being active and self-confident.  Here, Always’ audience members are talking to each other about the message which is one of the best strategies to build brand awareness.

Disciplinary Ethics

                Like all industries, communications has its own highly respected ethics code. Advertising and Public Relations professionals spend a lot of their time dealing with ethical choices, and those choices are almost never black and white. Protecting integrity and the public’s trust are fundamental to the profession’s role and reputation.

                Telling the truth seems like a pretty basic ethical standard but it’s probably the most important. We tell the truth—but not always the whole truth, necessarily. Like lawyers, our job is to put our clients in the best light. In an interview, you’re not going to commit identity fraud—but you probably don’t want to make a full disclosure either. Most likely, you’d keep your lactose intolerance and bladder issues to yourself. Examples of these acceptable white lies are shown in most baby diaper and feminine hygiene product commercials. How differently would these commercials be viewed if they used the real thing instead of fake blue water? It probably would not be very well liked.

                Other than honesty, we have other ethics responsibilities. Strategic Communications professionals must advocate for those we represent, we are independent and accountable for our actions, we are loyal to those we represent, and we deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, and the general public.

                The “Like a Girl” campaign was very in-depth with its message and production. Even the beginning steps of developing this campaign must have needed a lot of trust and loyalty between Always and the advertising professionals. Always also proves its loyalty to its audience by producing many blogs and other materials to help its audience with their everyday troubles.

Work Criticism

                This brief on the “Like a Girl” campaign has much strength. I successfully analyzed the smart communications strategy and the compelling message by Always. I gave many examples of the ways the campaign goes beyond advertising and utilizes strategic communications strategies to promote their message. This took some digging, but I presented strong examples of blogs, news stories, and social media posts and strategies to go along with them that promote the campaign. This demonstrates how strong and well developed the campaign is.   In addition, I added pictures and bolded phrases to emphasize the important concepts. However, even though I “wrote to management,” I could have done a better job at utilizing bullet points to make the brief even easier to quickly read and comprehend. If I had more time to develop this brief, I would research more to see how else Always delivered and spread its message. For example, maybe I would have found some personal bloggers who were paid by Always to promote the message. This would have furthered my argument about the strength of this campaign.