by Rebecca Scully
The world is full of good ideas – and the PR world is full of fantastically creative, headline grabbing PR ideas. But how can you be sure that any one of these headline grabbing ideas is actually going to deliver a tangible business benefit to a client or, if you are the client, to your company.
At risk of sounding like The Sun’s ‘New in Briefs’, an ancient Chinese Philosopher, Sun Tzu, once said: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Wise words – and in other words, all the great ideas in the world won’t get you where you need to be without a strategy behind them. However, a good strategy alone will, albeit slowly. Clearly the ideal is a robust strategy supported by some really relevant creativity in the form of tactics.
However, strategy development in PR and communications remains a bit hit and miss and can often be missing altogether. Here are what I believe to be the top five ‘must-dos’ when developing a communications strategy:
- Define your task – if you can’t define the overall role that communications needs to play in the business in a couple of sentences, including the measurable outcome you want it to have, then you are not clear on what you want to achieve.
- Identify any barriers to you achieving your defined outcomes – this will often mean undertaking a vast amount of desk and market research to establish where you are currently compared with where you want to be. It may also mean auditing the internal politics of a company. If communications doesn’t have senior level buy-in you will need to allow for trust and confidence building as part of your strategic approach.
- Be clear about who you need to engage – no communications activity can reach everyone as we are all different and therefore engaged by very different things. Prioritise those audiences whose engagement in you or your product will have the quickest and greatest chance of you achieving your defined outcomes. These should be your phase one focus.
- Summarise – can you summarise what you need to do to fill the gap between where you are and where you want to be? Trim this down until you can communicate it into three or four verbs. For example, do you want to educate people or inform them? This summary is the basis of your strategic framework. Your framework should have relevance to your company or brand over the medium to long term. As already implied, you may need to break it down into phases, depending on the scale of task ahead of you.
- Integrate with the marketing and sales strategy and activity (and support it!) – finally, and perhaps most importantly, PR does not exist in a vacuum. Marketing and sales generally have a greater level of board level buy-in and therefore their strategies generally receive earlier approval. Any communications strategy should be clearly integrated with marketing activity and share many of its desired outcomes. You should also be prepared to show, tangibly, how the communications activity will actively support and enhance the sales effort.