Think: Strategy

It’s all too easy, especially in the world of public relations and social media where there’s a shiny new tool every week, to lose sight of the big picture and focus in on tactics.

David Usher and Mitch Joel: ask "why" not "what"When someone asks you for ideas about something, where do you start? Do you instantly get the creative juices flowing and start throwing out ideas for creative events and approaches? Or do you stop and look at the big picture first?

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending PodCamp Montreal. One thing I noticed upon reflecting on the conference was a subtle shift in the topics of some key sessions, away from tactics and towards strategy.

Mitch Joel and David Usher, for example, drew on the ideas of Seth Godin and Clay Shirkey to talk about the need to move away from tactical thinking about what you’re doing and towards strategic thinking about why you’re doing those things. Julien Smith talked about focusing on the big picture; about seeing the forest instead of the trees. Mike Kujawski, meanwhile, spoke about the strategic approach needed to introduce social media into communications practices in the public sector.

Similarly, as I was sitting in a brainstorming meeting the yesterday surrounded by great creative ideas, I had to stop, take a step back and ask, “what’s our overarching strategy here?” It wasn’t only after I’d asked myself (and others) that question that I was able to get my head around the issue.

Next time you find yourself reacting to a question with tactics, stop and think: Am I missing the bigger picture here?

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  • Well said, Dave. I think every PR / communications person should have a big sign on their wall that says “Tools are not strategies.” It’s tempting to sit in client / staff meetings and say “We need a blog!” or “We should do a podcast!” but that’s backwards thinking. Identify the need first, then plan a strategy, then identify the tactics.

  • If only more communications people would understand this. The strategic elements for communications people are the same as for marketers (minus 3 of the P’s). You still need to set objectives carefully, segment your market, choose an effective target audience, position your organization/initiative and measure performance based on concrete end-objectives. That last point is crucial (especially in government), stop measuring performance based on fluffy , meaningless awareness metrics! Great post Dave.