With the 2022 working year in full swing, marketing departments and PR agencies alike are fully immersed in planning and goal setting for the year ahead.
As public relations professionals, we’re well aware of the many stereotypes and assumptions about media and publicity (all news is good news right?), as well as the belief that our end goal is simply a spot on the front of the paper or evening news.
However, the reality is that a robust strategic communications plan is essential to enable these and other such achievements.
In short, a strategic communications plan consists of three equally important, yet very different, elements: objectives, strategy and tactics. Each element plays into the next and when executed well, help organisations to achieve their desired outcome.
It’s not uncommon for strategy and tactics to be incorrectly used interchangeably and this can result in an ineffective communications plan and expectations not being met. This is exactly why it’s important to understand the difference.
To put it into perspective, think of the plan as a journey – the objective is the end of the path, the strategy is the direction that path takes and the tactics are what you do along the path.
The sooner you understand how these elements work together the better you will be able to execute a strategic communications plan which supports a broader business plan. You’ll also be able to articulate the rationale behind your strategic communications and media relations activities to team members and business executives, encouraging them to buy into the process.
Creating clear objectives will give you, as the practitioner, direction as to which strategy and tactics are required and best suited to achieve them.
To highlight the differences between these three key elements, we have broken down objectives, strategy and tactics below to show how each work together in a corporate communications-based thought leadership campaign.
“To be recognised as an industry expert and thought leader.”
Objectives are reasonably self-explanatory. They should clearly articulate where you want to be and what you want to achieve through the strategic communications plan.
Often objectives can also include some form of performance measure, i.e. “To be recognised as an industry expert and thought leader via at least three placements in identified high value publications in the next 12 months.”
“Position as leading industry voice in area of expertise among target audience.”
Consider this the “how.” How are the objectives going to be achieved and what’s the best path to get there? This will vary from project to project but in this example, in order to be recognised and considered an industry expert, the strategy is to position the company as a leading-industry voice in an area of expertise.
“Commentary on industry trends and news of the day, proactive news pitches, speaking engagements, industry reports, awards submissions, press pairings.”
Consider this the “to do” of the plan and the fun part where the creative flair thrives.
This is where you execute the strategy with the different tools, channels, and communications knack you learnt through your trade. In this case, industry commentary, reports, and proactive media pitches are the tactics being used to position the company as a leading industry voice.