Australian Government,  Blog post,  Communication Strategy,  Communications professional

No strategy, no tactics

That’s right, I am putting my foot down. In 2024, there is a new communications rule. No strategy, no tactics.

I hear it all the time from communicators in-house. You continuously get asked to deliver a tactic, an output, or a product with no plan of how it will get to the audience. Let alone any consideration for who the audience even is.

Here at Elm, we see it all of the time as well. We get requests for quotes for three videos, four social tiles and a podcast. We are asked to deliver a case studies or five factsheets. Why? Who decided that is what is needed? Why is it the most effective way? We know they need a communication strategy, but that isn’t what we have been asked to deliver.

If we propose starting with the strategy – who are you trying to reach, what do they need, and how can we connect with them – we are told that we haven’t met the brief. And more often than not, we don’t get the job.

It happens to you too, doesn’t it? If you say no, the business area does it themselves. They believe they are right and often cannot be convinced that we might know what we are talking about.

So, what can we do to try to influence them?

Why do we need a strategy?

Starting with a communication strategy before jumping into tactics is crucial for several reasons:

  • Direction and focus: A strategy acts as a roadmap, defining what you want to achieve through communication, who you want to reach, and the message you want to convey. Without this direction, tactics become scattered and ineffective. Deciding you want the latest cool tactic (i.e., a video) doesn’t mean you will achieve your goal.
  • Efficiency: Tactics are specific actions you take to accomplish your goals. Choosing tactics without a defined strategy is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. You waste resources on activities that might not achieve what you need or reach your audience, leading to wasted effort.
  • Coherence and consistency: With a strategy in place, you can identify multiple tactics that work together cohesively. You don’t just need a video; you need a video and a social post to tell people it’s there. And a web page for it to live on. And a brochure with the same messages to hand out at events. Every tactic should work together to build your story rather than being a one-off hit. Without a strategy, your communication might appear like a jumble of disconnected messages, confusing your audience and undermining your purpose.
  • Measurement: A strategy sets out your longer-term objectives, not just the views of your one post. It means that you can measure the effectiveness of your approach in multiple ways and adjust as needed. Tactics are often focused on short-term goals and immediate results. A strategy, on the other hand, considers the long-term impact of your communication. It ensures that your tactics contribute to your overall goals and build a strong foundation for success.

What can we do about it?

As communicators, we need to keep fighting the good fight. We have to have the difficult conversations with our clients. We need to present the arguments about why they need to start with a strategy and show them where it has worked before.

The more we say yes to a tactic, the more we ingrain this behaviour.

Communications teams are known for their outputs: that great video, the post that went viral, the media release that the Minister loved. It is what business areas see from our teams. It is what they are familiar with.

That doesn’t mean that’s where it should start.

A communication strategy is the bedrock upon which effective tactics are built. It provides direction, focus, and coherence, enabling you to adapt, measure, and achieve your long-term goals. Skipping this crucial step is like building a house without the architect’s plan– you might end up with something, but it’s unlikely to be efficient, stable, or meet your needs in the long run.

2024 #nostrategynotactics

PS – Wanna talk more about strategy? Give us a call we love it and are happy to talk about how to embed this in your organisation.

PPS – Don’t forget to check out our free communication strategy template!

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