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Strategy and tactics: Why it’s important to know the difference

There’s an illusion with PR that all practitioners ever want is to get their clients some good TV or national newspaper coverage. What many don’t comprehend is how achieving this type of coverage is often just one tactic within a broad strategic communications plan.

In short, a strategic communications plan consists of three equally important, yet very different, elements; objective, strategy, and tactics. Each of these work together and when executed well, help clients achieve their desired outcome.

Strategy and tactics are most commonly used interchangeably which can result in an ineffective communications plan and some unhappy clients. Because of this it’s important to understand how these two things differ.

If you 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 your execution of the strategic communication plan will be. You’ll also be able to articulate this to the clients which will help you explain the rationale behind your communications plan and allow them to buy into the process.

Allowing clients to create clear objectives will give you a direction as to which strategy and tactics are required to achieve them.

To highlight the differences between these three, the below is an example of how objective, strategy and tactics need to work with each other in a corporate communications thought leadership campaign.

Objective

“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.

Strategy

“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 leading-industry voice in an area of expertise.

Tactic

“Commentary on industry trends and news of the day, proactive news pitches, speaking engagements, industry reports, awards submissions, press pairings.”

Consider this the “do” part 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.