After spending years in the trenches of public relations, oftentimes the things we put into practice every day become so second nature we can struggle if someone asks us to define an aspect of PR. The things we think of when pulling together a program for a client or a new business pitch become so ingrained they can almost be put on autopilot. Strategy and tactics often get lumped into the same bucket, when they are actually two separate but related components.
While this is common and expected, taking a step back for a refresher can sometimes allow us to see new possibilities—or sharpen our focus. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what is considered strategy, what are tactics, and how the two work to provide a balanced plan document.
Strategy is defined as “…a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result,” according to Dictionary.com. So, strategy is the plan to achieve the goal. If your goal is to increase the awareness of a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, the strategy document is the path to arriving at that goal. A well-considered strategy document will take into account all aspects of PESO channels (paid, earned, shared, owned).
Tactics are the actions deployed to achieve the strategy. So, if the goal is to increase awareness of CSR efforts, and the strategy describes the path to getting there, tactics are the specific tasks or programs that will be used to carry out the strategic plan. Tactics to improve awareness of CSR efforts could include inviting key media and bloggers to an event, establishing an events/PR calendar, writing content for owned channels spotlighting employees involved in CSR, etc. Solid tactics will implement the PESO items.
Both strategy and tactics can and should be measured. One difference between the two is that while your strategy should not change, your tactics might. If one of your tactics was to engage with 25 influencers in your industry space and you’ve only managed to engage five, you might need to change tactics and focus on influencers in the CSR space, rather than your specific industry. While the strategic component of reaching out to influencers is solid, the tactical execution might need to shift if you aren’t seeing results.
Selecting key performance indicators (KPI) and mapping strategy back to business goals is important when setting up your measurement program. You’ll be measuring the success of the overall strategy at the end of the program. Measuring tactics will be an ongoing component of your measurement effort, and you’ll be looking at those results over the course of the PR program implementation, which will give you the ability to see if tactics need to be adjusted or changed, depending on their success or failure at helping you to reach your program goals.
Having well-defined goals, a strategy to achieve those goals, and selecting the appropriate tactics to implement the strategy are all important components of executing a solid PR program. Knowing and understanding how these are separate items that work together should be in the back of every PR practitioner’s mind when proposing plans to clients.