Strategy vs tactics


How often have you walked into a meeting to discuss strategy only to find your team debating the value of brochures over radio ads or pop-up displays and website content?

The team whips together products that they believe will achieve their (usually unarticulated) goals only to deplete the budget without getting results.

"Is this really what strategy is all about?" you might well ask.

We're going to spend a few weeks talking about strategy in a way that we hope will help you get really comfortable staying away from tactics and helping your team members grasp big-picture thinking.

Let's start with defining what strategy is -- and what it isn't.

First, from the Oxford Dictionary, strategy is a plan to achieve a long-term goal. It is not the detail, which would be set out later in an operational plan. It is high-level. It is the "how" or approach you'll take to achieve that goal or goals. It's figuring out whether you're travelling by air, public transit or car, not which airline, bus company or car-rental firm you're going to use, on what date and at what cost. It's deciding that you're going to use a multi-media campaign rather than deciding that you'll need two 30-second videos, a new website, articles in trade publications and an Instagram account.

Strategy has to take many factors into account.

The goal: This is the #1 thing you must know. Without a clearly defined goal, you can't figure out the right strategy - or appropriate tactics for that matter. What do you need to do to succeed? Does this align with your mission or mandate? Your values or guiding principles?

Resources: Do you have the individuals with the skills to carry out the plan? The right tools? Technology? Budget? If you're aiming at something that can't be done with what you have - or can access - your strategy will fail.

Challenges: What is the environment like? Is there opposition to what you want to do? Agreement? What are the obstacles you must overcome?

Opportunities: What strengths can you leverage? Are their groups or individuals in agreement with your desired outcomes? What third-party expertise or support can you use?

Audiences: Who do you absolutely need to be on-side to succeed? Break audiences into smaller groups based on their shared interests, behaviours, knowledge of topic, influence, etc. This will not only help with strategy but will help you better identify the channels and messages (tactics) to reach them when you get to your operational plan. Our next blog post will go into the difference between primary and secondary audiences.

Timeline: How quickly do you need to achieve your goal?  Is the result achievable in the amount of time you have to achieve it? If not, consider breaking your goals down into phases and identify the right strategies from there. For example, if you are trying to change behavioural attitudes and have two months to do it, you don't stand much chance of success. You have only to look at seatbelt, smoking cessation or recycling campaigns to see how long it takes to change behaviours.

Make sense?

Next time, I'll post about audiences and how you differentiate between those who are critical (primary audiences) and those who would be good to reach (secondary).

I'd love to hear about your experiences with strategy-building sessions? Has your experience been that participants understand the difference between strategy and tactics?



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