Select a situation within an organization (corporate, non-profit, educational institution) to address. You will be creating a CEO-focused communications proposal to illustrate to the CEO that you can think strategically and to make a specific actionable recommendation.
(Companies NOT allowed to be used for this project: Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Southwest Airlines).
This is NOT a lengthy strategic plan with a lot of ground-level detail. Rather, this should be a concise, insightful, proposal that will address a specific situation and can be acted on. Your mission is to convince the CEO and the board to \”green-light\” and fund your recommendation. Therefore, it should demonstrate wisdom, understanding, and be persuasive.
Your proposal should address a specific situation or problem within the organization, like:
Falling sales/poor financial performance
Crisis situation (natural disaster, organizational misdeeds, workplace violence, boycotts)
New product launch or new market entry
Shifting market or customer base
Other tips for success:
Build on the organization\’s mission and financial goals
Demonstrate how your department will improve the organization\’s reputation, strengthen the brand, and contribute to the bottom line.
Avoid being to micro in your analysis; it should be high-level thinking and speak at the CEO level (don\’t use \”I\” since you are representing your communications team).
Avoid basic information that the CEO already knows – don\’t waste space telling the CEO the history of his own company unless that information is directly relevant.
All sections should speak to the situation you are addressing – don\’t get sidetracked on other areas of the company that don\’t factor into this situation. Be laser-focused. Be sure that you are addressing communications decisions, not leadership decisions.
Note: If your company is a parent company of many brands, drill down to a situation facing one brand. Be careful that you are aren\’t tackling a situation that is too broad to be addressed concisely.
In writing your proposal, use a minimum of five sources from outside the company; it\’s necessary for a thorough situational analysis. Because the CEO doesn\’t want to read long, boring documents, you will need to make every word count; condense and edit your lengthy research into a concise final paper. However, concise doesn\’t mean vague or unresearched writing. You should be an expert in your organization and that should be evident in your paper.
Your project should be a minimum of 3,000 words and no more than 6,000 words. Your references should not be included in the word count.
Your written proposal should consist of the following sections, written to the CEO level:
What has been going on? How has the company been responding and how effective has that response been?
Situation analysis: Provide a summary of the situation you are addressing, and how it impacts other critical issues like the company\’s position within its industry (its competitive performance, economic, legal, social, industry trends, etc). Do not be general here – focus on the situation and how it impacts these areas.
SWOT analysis: Discuss the key challenges and opportunities facing the organization – in relation to the situation, using the Strengths, Weaknesses,Opportunities, and Threats model. Strengths and weaknesses focus on internal factors while opportunities and threats are external factors. If you choose to organize in a traditional SWOT chart, additional explanation and analysis will be required beyond the streamlined bulletpoint.
Positioning analysis: Using our text, Positioning, outline the organization\’s brand positioning strategy and how it is impacted by the situation you are addressing in this strategic project. Is the positioning strategy effective? How has it been established? How does it help or hinder the organization\’s success? How does the situation impact the company\’s position?
Who has been and will be impacted?
Key publics or stakeholders: Define the segmented groups of people whose support and cooperation are essential to the accomplishment of your objectives. Each key public should include a description of the group\’s current relationship/status with the organization and the situation, as well as an analysis on how to best interact with that group of stakeholders moving forward.
What do you hope to accomplish or change in this situation?
Goals: Share your goal(s) – the outcome to be achieved in your situation (resolving the core problem or seizing a significant opportunity). Provide a clear rationale why these goal(s) were selected. Also show how your goal(s) support the company\’s overall strategy and mission.
Summarize why this situation is important and needs to be resolved.
Outline what the consequences will be if no action is taken.
What strategic communication action do you recommend?
Strategic Recommendation: What is the single most strategic adjustment you would recommend the organization make to turn things around with this situation? This might be a new communications strategy, a change in positioning or differentiating strategy, a change in the brand portfolio alignment, an effort to bring greater clarity and relevance to the organization, or any of the other things we have covered in the course. Be sure that your recommendations are actionable – the CEO is not looking for you to tell him how to do his job, so make sure you are suggesting something you can implement.
Outline recommendation strategy, target audiences, key messages and project outcomes to achieve leadership goals. Key messages should be sound bites of what you will communicate to each target audience(s). Your strategy should identify approaches and channels necessary to achieve an objective. Cast a vision for what can be accomplished in your project outcomes.
Provide a strong rationale for what you recommend. Answer the question, \”Why should we do this now?\” You must convince your leadership to spend their money on your recommendation: so demonstrate insight, innovation, and clear analysis. And make sure you\’ve taken the time to add depth so that your recommendation isn\’t vague and basic. If anyone could recommend it, why would the boss pay your salary?
Provide three or four brand building communication tactics that illustrate how you might execute your core strategy. These should be communications tools and tasks required to support your recommendation strategy. It might be an imaginative way to use public relations, an innovative social media approach, a new media mix, video, or a revised program for employees. Make your tactics clear and detailed.
Implementation: Outline the timeframe that your core strategy could be accomplished and explanation of resources (budget, staff, outsourcing, etc.) necessary. Be focused and specific, have measurable outcomes, and a time frame. Actual dollar amounts are not necessary. Include details on monitoring and evaluation to measure the effectiveness of the communication strategy. Be realistic in your timeframe.
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