Principles of Strategic Communication
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Principles of Strategic Communication

Derina Holtzhausen, Jami Fullerton, Bobbi Kay Lewis, Danny Shipka

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eBook - ePub

Principles of Strategic Communication

Derina Holtzhausen, Jami Fullerton, Bobbi Kay Lewis, Danny Shipka

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About This Book

Designed to support the paradigm shift in media and communication, this book presents the basic tenets of strategic communication and its foundational disciplines of advertising, public relations, and marketing communications.

Drawing on the latest research in the field, the text introduces students to the theories of strategic communication while at the same time outlining how to apply them to everyday practice. To facilitate learning and tie concepts to practice, each chapter includes introductory focus questions, a contemporary global case study, a career profile of a current practitioner, end-of-chapter discussion questions, and features that highlight how research methods can be applied to strategic communication practice.

Principles of Strategic Communication is ideal as a core text for undergraduate students in strategic communication courses within media, communication, marketing, and advertising programs.

The accompanying online support material features chapter overviews, learning outcomes, key terms, discussion questions, and links/additional reading. Instructors will find sample syllabi and a test bank. Please visit

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Chapter 1
Introduction to the Theory of Strategic Communication

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to do the following:
  • Define strategic communication.
  • Grasp the three levels of analysis and apply them to strategic communication.
  • Understand the importance of an outside/in approach and the role of the external environment.
  • Know how the foundational disciplines of strategic communication contribute to your understanding of the field.
Chapter Opening Vignette

“Now That’s An Ad” …. The Australian Tourism Campaign cleverly disguised as a movie

The 1986 action movie Crocodile Dundee, featuring Paul Hogan as Mick Dundee, was a worldwide hit and one of the top-grossing films in the U.S. and Australia of all time. One of the most iconic scenes from the movie took place in Manhattan, when gangsters tried to rob Mick Dundee by pulling a knife on him. Mick replied, “That’s not a knife.” Pulling a much bigger hunting knife out of his own jacket, he added, “Now that’s a knife.” This phrase instantly became part of popular culture in English-speaking countries and could therefore serve as a hook in an ad at Superbowl 2017, when Tourism Australia launched an ad campaign that was bigger, more brazen, more iconically Australian and much more effective, than the average tourism ad.
Like all great ad campaigns, it began with a problem. Even though long-haul travel from the U.S. grew by 17%, visitation from the U.S. to Australia specifically was stagnant at 1.3%.1 It was not only the 13-hour flight that reduced the desire to visit Australia, but also the fact that destinations in Asia were seen to be more fashionable, especially to High Value Travelers (HVTs), who were the target market of Tourism Australia. HVTs take long-haul trips annually, stay longer, visit more regions and already have Australia in their decision-set; just not at the top of their list.
Tourism Australia wanted to change this, reignite HVTs passion for Australia and develop a new campaign to promote Australian tourism. Tourism Australia wanted to achieve three objectives: create affinity and desire for Australia; generate word-of-mouth (WOM) and earned media; and compel HVTs to book a trip to Australia now.
Media agency Universal McCann (or UM Sydney) suggested aiming for the ultimate media event—the Superbowl. Research showed that the Superbowl delivers more impact than any other global platform2 and about half (48%) of HVTs would never miss a Superbowl.3
However, the challenge was to attract viewers’ attention in one of the most competitive advertising feasts on earth. Tourism Australia’s creative agency, Droga5 started with the existing tagline “There’s nothing like Australia” and then extended it to “There’s no one like Australians.” While a lot of travel destinations have incredible scenery, the fun-loving humor and laidback look-at-life is unique to Australians. Crocodile Mick Dundee was a cultural symbol of that worldview. Crocodile Dundee made Australia irresistible to Americans in the 1980s, filling their movie theatres and boosting Australian tourism. It was time to bring him back, because at that time 70% of all new films and TV products were reimaginations or extensions.
The first phase of the campaign was to create earned media around a new movie, Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home. To tease the American public there were behind-the-scene leaks of beautiful Australian scenery, four blockbuster trailers featuring Chris Hemsworth, Margie Robbie and some of Australia’s best-known actors, and interviews with the original Crocodile Dundee, Paul Hogan.
In the second phase the 60-second Superbowl ad revealed that this much talked-about movie was actually an ad. The tourism campaign in disguise ignited 82,909 mentions from 100 million viewers. In fact, the “Dundee” magic was already at work with the 60-second trailer being the number one, most-viewed Superbowl ad.4
The third phase of the campaign was about turning this interest into packed suitcases and plane tickets to Australia. This involved a video series, performance banners, paid social media and partnerships.
The results of the Tourism Australia campaign were a 50% desirability lift; an 83% intention to book; the generation of more than $85.1 million in earned media; and a reach of nearly 900 million people.
So, when people talk of great ad campaigns, remember this movie that was a tourism campaign in disguise, that got us all talking and laughing, and filled the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with American tourists. As Crocodile Dundee himself would have said, “Now this is an ad.”
Reprinted with permission from Tourism Australia.
Leigh Terry, CEO, IPG Mediabrands, Asia-Pacific.
Gayle Kerr, Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.

What Is Strategic Communication?

What do Tourism Australia, the Chicago Bears, the Red Cross, Apple, your local city government and sports stars such as Serena Williams and LeBron James have in common? Think about it. They all have different missions, not all their goals are to make money or save the world. So, what is the commonality they all share?
If you said they all deal with the public, you would be on the right track. Tourism Australia has a responsibility to the Australian tourism industry. The Bears have responsibilities to the community that goes beyond just winning football games and the Red Cross beyond responding to disasters. Apple does more than cutting-edge phone technology, and your local city government does more than enforce laws. Sports stars depend on their public image and personal brands to get endorsements. Each of these entities must rely on effective communication to achieve their goals in today’s competitive environment. They must all utilize all forms of media and employ a variety of communication techniques. They must be purposeful and planned in the way they interact with their audiences. To be successful in their missions, they all must practice strategic communication.
Strategic communication is a new field of communication that did not exist before the turn-of-the-century. The dramatic changes in media technology that occurred at the end of the 20th century resulted in a paradigm shift—or new way of thinking—about how entities (corporations, non-profits, governments, celebrities, sport stars) communicate with their stakeholders (audiences, customers, citizens, activists). This fresh thinking came together in a new academic and professional field called strategic communication. Strategic communication incorporates traditional communication fields like advertising, public relations (PR) and integrated marketing communication (IMC) along with other disciplines such management, marketing, technical writing, branding and political communication. However, strategic communication goes beyond the simple blending of these disciplines to better address the complex communication realities and the ever-evolving media of the new millennium.
The formal study of the discipline really took off with the establishment of the International Journal of Strategic Communication in 2007. Five scholars from different continents laid down the foundation for its development in arguably the most cited article in the field.5 This seminal article did not offer a formal definition but did lay the foundation for a definition. The definition evolved and expanded over time. The one used in this text was formalized by adding the term “public sphere” to clearly delineate it from interpersonal communication. The following is the definition that will be used in this text.
Strategic communication is the practice of deliberate and purposive communication that a communication agent enacts in the public sphere on behalf of a communicative entity to reach set goals.6
For communication actions to rise to the level of strategic communication, according to the definition above, it must be purposive and deliberate and take place in the public sphere. It also must be executed by an agent.
If you return to the Tourism Australia example, it is easy to see how that campaign fits the definition of strategic communication. The strategy was purposefully designed in three stages and its execution was deliberate at every step. There was more than one communication agent—Universal McCann Sydney and Droga5, who acted on behalf of the communicative entity (CE), Tourism Australia, which is a government agency responsible for attracting international visitors. The campaign had set goals: create affinity and desire for Australia; generate word-of-mouth (WOM) and earned media; and compel stake-holders, such as High Value Travelers, to book a trip to Australia now. It also had to take place in the public sphere, in this case a variety of media and the televised Super Bowl.
It is important to remember that not all communication is strategic. According to Holtzhausen and Zerfass’s definition above, strategic communication is deliberate and purposive. It involves planned messages and thoughtful, organized responses. Strategic communication involves specific messages and seeks to accomplish a specific outcome; it should be part of a larger strategy targeted to specific stakeholders and may use a broad array of media and modes of communication.
Strategic communication happens in the public sphere, which basically means it is open to the public and deals with concerns of society or addresses an issue that requires public support. Jürgen Habermas,7 a German philosopher, first described the public sphere as an area in social life where people can come together to identify and discuss societal problems. Communication between friends, spouses, doctors and their patients, supervisors and their employees and many other exchanges are not considered strategic communication. Although you may be strategically arguing a point, these conversations fall outside the scope of strategic communication because they are private, somewhat spontaneous, and the public is not involved. A private discussion about a salary increase with your boss is not strategic communication even though you might communicate strategically with her. But if your company issues a statement to the media about a planned raise program, it does so for a purpose and the communication is planned. It takes place where anyone can access it and it is executed by an educated agent, somebody like you, who understands the media and can produce content professionally. For more examples of public sphere and non-public sphere communication, see Figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1 Public Sphere Communication
Figure 1.1 Public Sphere Communication
In this first chapter, you will get to understand the different concepts captured in the definition. Throughout this text, you will be challenged to apply these concepts to society, organizations, public persona such as movie and sports starts, and entertainers of all sorts. This chapter will provide you with a basic understanding of the communication process, which will enable you to absorb more complex information on how to practice strategic communication later in the book.
This will serve as the foundation for a career in strategic communication and for designing a strategic communication campaign that will dazzle your boss, your clients and your organization because you were able to communicate strategically and effectively in the public sphere.

Why and How We Use Strategic Communication

In today’s increasingly complex world, organizations, brands and individuals who have a public profile must compete for the attention, admiration and loyalty of various stake-holders including customers, employees, investors, donors, government officials, special interest group leaders and the public-at-large. Because of dramatic changes in the media landscape, earning that attention has become more difficult. It requires strategic communicators to use integrated, holistic messaging to reach fragmented audiences across multiple delivery platforms.
Furthermore, once someone has a public profile, it needs to be protected. A reputation needs to be built and maintained. If something bad happens to that pub...

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