Where should you be investing your unused marketing budget this financial year?

Where should you be investing your unused marketing budget this financial year?

Marketing budgets have become far more proactive in recent years, and rightly so. The traditional approach of allocating budgets reactively based on previous performance is out and instead, marketing teams are taking a dynamic approach. To gain sustainable growth, budgets are allocated on activities that drive tangible results that propel the business forward.

At this point in the financial year, you may find that you have unused marketing budget in the pot. Here are some projects to consider investing in to move your business on.

Media coaching in an era dominated by digital communication

In an age where digital communication is the norm, opportunities to humanise the brand are a good investment. Investing in media coaching for your company spokespeople will pay off well into the future. The individuals you choose to represent your company can deliver far more than a polished image. They can bring authenticity, relatability and trust to your brand, driving engagement and loyalty.

No matter the platform, becoming an effective spokesperson requires practice and preparation and with many new and exciting media channels, the challenge is to ensure that your narrative is managed in the right way.

What is good practice in a TV news interview – such as a short and snappy sound-byte – is very different from good practice in a podcast appearance, where the host is likely to want an in-depth analysis of a subject. Online traditional media increasingly requires interviews to deliver clickbait headlines whereas LinkedIn allows you to be your own publisher, broadcasting your point of view and building your own community of followers.

Media coaching is a form of professional development for spokespeople which bolsters competence and confidence when dealing with all forms of the media. It is tailored to your company needs and blends theory and practice, so delegates learn new skills and tactics and develop techniques to calm the nerves in even the most daunting situations.

Online reputation management

One of the primary goals of PR is to protect and build the reputation of businesses and their leaders. As more and more business is now being conducted online, it makes sense that we view reputation through an online lens.

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Threats to reputation are everywhere online. A quick Google search can be make-or-break for whether a potential client chooses you or someone else as consumers look for trust signals online. One tweet in poor taste can undo a decade of brand-building.

It’s therefore important to proactively build your online presence – this will not only benefit your business from a communications perspective but also build resilience, boosting the positive search results related to your business if a threat does emerge.

Investing in a combination of reputation auditing to surface any content that constitutes a reputational risk and a proactive reputation management strategy to tell your story, will give you greater curation over Google’s search results.

Crisis Communication Preparedness

You may have plans in place at an operational level for when challenges arise but you need to ensure you’ve also considered how plans will be communicated, by whom and through which channels.  Having a plan, an agreed process and the necessary tools in place to communicate in times of crises means you can be confident of being prepared, informed and in control. This puts you in the best possible position to manage the reputation of the business.

A crisis communications plan provides a framework and set of guidelines for the business to follow when a crisis hits. It will include identifying the individuals, groups, and organisations that are directly or indirectly impacted by a crisis and considering the different response plans required for each stakeholder group via which communication channel.

Insights reporting

Whether it’s identifying the national and international trends that your business can have a voice on, analysing and deciphering search data, or digging deep into the current effectiveness of your communications, an insights reporting project will inform the communications strategy that will have a positive impact on your business.

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Stakeholder workshops can help you pinpoint your key audience groups. From here, you can construct searches to capture online conversations that these groups are a part of, to understand the sort of content that will have cut through in the future for your business.

A landscape analysis will enable you to look deep into a particular topic, for example, retirement in the UK or the future of work. You can then track mentions across channels and analyse the data for audience statistics, trends and whitespace, allowing you to shape your future communications strategy to approaching these topics.

Tracking your share of voice and media profile against your key competitors across a range of different channels will allow you to benchmark over time and track the impact of your brand’s communications campaigns. You could also take this to the next level by cross-referencing mentions against business-critical topics.

ESG comms benchmarking

2023 was the year ‘greenhushing’ went mainstream. The term refers to businesses opting to keep ESG and sustainability commitments and actions quiet, for fear of sparking backlash or attracting additional scrutiny on their performance. While understandable, this approach stifles progress, creating a distorted picture of where action is – and isn’t – being taken. With the urgency of climate action, and an ever-growing expectation of action across the board on ESG, ignoring these issues entirely in communications and PR is rarely the correct course of action.

An ESG and sustainability communications benchmarking project can advise on the ‘outside-in’ risks which should be considered, as well as offering guidance on which channels may, or may not, be suitable for ESG and sustainability messaging. It may make sense to bring on a partner to address any communications gaps and inform a strategic approach to communicating on ESG and sustainability issues that are appropriate for your company and sector.

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Invest in the future of your communications strategy

In summary, embracing a proactive mindset with your marketing budget can redefine strategies, moving the business forward and future-proof the brand. Consider investments that not only work today but give you valuable insights into the future, help you discover new audiences, assist with campaign ideation and enable you to have a voice on the topics that matter.

Sarah Woodhouse

Sarah Woodhouse is a director and co-owner at AMBITIOUS, a strategic communications agency. Sarah is a seasoned public relations and communications professional with over 21 years’ experience working in the UK and Asia. Based in Bristol, but with a national and international reach, AMBITIOUS helps clients find, engage and grow audiences. From print and digital PR to communications strategy, media training, social media and content services – it connects clients to the conversations that matter.

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