Clients often approach us with a concrete task they want done – such as editing a document, revamping a website, writing a speech, or creating media awareness for a new initiative – and we can certainly do these tasks well. But the most effective communications efforts begin to resonate and build momentum when they are based upon a well-thought-out strategy and action plan.
Like good food, a solid strategy takes a little time to prepare. Our starting point is to analyze a client’s situation, objectives, and key audiences; and then derive one to three high-level strategies, which are evidence-based statements about the smartest way to improve the situation. For example, for an industry client whose lobbying effort was failing to win over pro-business members of Congress, one strategy was to reorient the messaging away from business-speak and toward the benefits to average voters. Another strategy in that campaign was to recruit “grasstops” community leaders who delivered the message personally to their elected officials, reinforcing other channels of PR aimed at these leaders.
The strategies – which answer “how” best to approach the challenge – should flow logically from the prior “who, what, when and where” analysis and point the way to concrete tactics to carry out those strategies. The tactics we recommend usually include elements of better messaging and content, online presence, and other targeted forms of key audience outreach.
Another key to success is seeking out relevant data and research to help inform the strategy. Without a research base, the strategy may be based on the educated guesses of the capable team members involved – but these hunches may or may not be well-founded.
By combining these elements of strategic planning with a realistic budget, staffing, timeline, and metrics, the strategy comes to life and begins to have a real impact.