The success you’ve had advancing your brand’s initiatives or tackling hot-button issues elsewhere in the country won’t always translate once you cross the Texas state line. Outsiders often need reminding, Texas is like a whole other country, and your communications strategy must take this reality into account.
The diversity of socio-economic, geographic, political, industrial and demographic forces in play throughout Texas make it impossible to deploy a cookie-cutter communications strategy. There are too many variables to consider.
Rules and regulations differ from city to city. Opinions and attitudes vary wildly between urban and rural populations. The economic engines of Texas can be vastly different from one region to the next.
The fabric of Texas is a vivid and varied tapestry. You need to tailor your message and approach to suit specific audiences and ensure your team is prepared to toe the line.
Prepare Now for When an Issue Affects Your Company in Texas
If your company is conducting business in Texas or planning an initiative here, you need to identify the host of issues you’re likely to have to address, as well as some you should avoid like the plague.
The more complicated or controversial the issues are, the more important it is to know where you stand and how you plan to respond to questions about them.
Any topic is fair game: the environment, labor laws, unionization, health care, abortion, crime, law enforcement, gun control, immigration, social justice, corporate taxes and more.
As you consider that list, you are sure to think of others. Take a hard look at how the media and the public might form an opinion about your company through the lens of each issue. Conduct a self-analysis and identify your vulnerabilities and opportunities.
The Texas media (and everywhere else across the country) is eager to draw connections and stir controversies where others haven’t. Having a robust communications plan gives you a better chance to drive the narrative and improve your outcome.
Build Your Communications Structure From the Ground Up
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of having boots on the ground to execute on your communications strategy in Texas. Trying to dictate your message or develop local relationships from afar is likely to come up short.
Constructing an effective strategy begins with a solid foundation of local knowledge.
Before you can develop a plan, you need to understand:
- What is the history of this issue in this particular location? Dig into the archives of the local newspaper. Sift through social media posts. Interview longtime residents, retired reporters and city council members.
- Who are the key influencers? Identify community leaders, advocacy groups, opposition groups and others who will have an interest in your company or your issue. Understand how they could either promote or derail your initiative.
- Who are those who stand to be most impacted? Define your target audiences and consider how to best reach them. Develop an appreciation for their perspective. Identify where they get their information and be ready to meet them where they are.
Once you have done that initial assessment, you can begin building a plan. Understand how information disseminates and flows from there. Understand the best medium to reach each of those different constituencies.
Maybe that means developing a series of hyper-localized micro websites with specific messaging integrated from your regional manager because of their unique local relevance, insight or appeal.
The phrase “all politics are local” applies in the communications arena throughout Texas. The place for your enduring message to prevail is at the end of the line.
Everyone in Your Company Needs to Know Your Messaging
The ubiquity of smartphones and social media has made everyone a potential journalist or investigator. In a matter of seconds, anyone can whip out their device, press record, ask a leading or provocative question or two (or create their own color commentary) and upload it for the entire world to see.
You’ve seen the viral clips.
How are your employees or managers prepared to respond in such a scenario? Are they empowered to engage and coached up on talking points? Are they instructed to politely decline and provide an alternate person to contact? Do you even know if they know what to do?
The first statement becomes the lasting impression. If your regional manager is captured on camera with a message that’s off-brand, inconsistent or inaccurate, you’ll be on your back foot defending rather than setting the tone. That’s when communications suddenly goes from top-down to bottom-up and creates far more challenging issues for corporate leadership to manage.
Local news and social media influencers love two sides of a story (ie: controversy) and will look for any opportunity to make a story clickable. Make consistency and discipline central to your communications plan, and make sure every level of your organization knows how to respond (or not respond).
A Texas-Specific Communications Strategy Should be Central to Your Operation
Having a solid communications strategy plan in hand makes it harder for a national issue to blindside you or throw you off course in Texas. Stay focused on your core values and what your customers have come to expect, know and appreciate you for.
This leads to critical benefit of the doubt, even when challenging issues are at play. Remember that genuine, thoughtful engagement with your customers or clients is what matters most. You have earned their trust not because of positions you’ve taken on social issues, but because you reliably deliver on a brand promise. Stick to it.
If you want to learn more about how The Monument Group can help your organization craft an effective communications strategy in Texas, let’s talk.