Strategic comms plans in a Web2.0 world – oxymoron?

by Lee Hopkins on October 27, 2007 · 7 comments

in marketing

One of the principle selling points of the recent two-day seminars I ran on behalf of Melcrum was that the delegates would get to create and take away a first-draft Comms Strategy that incorporates Social Media.

I kind of felt uneasy about it, as I have always thought of ‘Strategy’ as an end goal, not a set of tactics. Strategy should set out what is to be achieved, not how it will be achieved. That is the job of the tactician manager.

However, in my experience mid/senior level Comms Managers love nothing more than Strategy documents (perhaps as a reflection of their organisation — nothing can be ‘done’ in an organisation without one). I have always argued that it is surely better to reflect on how any of these new tools can be used to support the strategy, not create one.

So I was delighted to read that my mentor and good friend Shel Holtz holds similar views.

As he says in a post about the non-event that was the IABC‘s announcement of its strategic plan:

“This, by the way, is one of the reasons I don’t like strategic plans in general (a view I adopted after listening to association expert Jeff DeCagna address the issue). In a world in which things change with dizzying speeds, locking an organization into a limited set of tactics designed to fulfill a plan established long before the changes took place can make it incredibly difficult to turn on a dime”

Amen, brother.

To all of the delegates who attended the recent workshops—and to everyone else, too—I am very happy to come in and help you get some of these tactics ‘off the ground’, especially as many of you are expecting resistance from ‘higher up’.

But don’t forget, you can always try and ‘sell in’ these new tools based on some of the following:

  • the tools are largely free, or incredibly low cost
  • they can be hooked up in minutes, not months
  • they can be unveiled as ‘test pilots’, not global enterprise initiatives
  • they can change your internal culture faster than you can possibly plan for

Just don’t try and wedge an organic tool that can ‘shape shift’ into a Strategic strait jacket.

Oh, and to take Shel’s question at the top of his post one step further, if a husband walks into the forest and speaks his mind, yet his wife’s not there to hear him, is he still wrong?

Attendees at my workshops know the answer! {grin}

—–

Currently listening to: David Sylvian – Secrets Of The Beehive – Let The Happiness In

  • http://www.InstituteforPR.com Sean Williams

    Lee – one alternative might be to think of strategy as what you do before you implement — “step on the battlefield” in military parlance. Shel’s comment notwithstanding, you certainly wouldn’t simply decide one day to do a video, or a newsletter, or a press release, without having a clear idea of the business purpose for doing so. There is an anti-strategy cabal in PR that points out regularly how fast the world is changing and the uselessness of planning. But a strategy is a “why” document, not a “what”.

    The confusion reigns when we assume that a plan equals a straitjacket — as Shel’s mention demonstrates. A good strategic plan takes change into account, and focuses more on why we do what we do than how, just as you and Shel intimate. But though all strategy is useless once you step on the battlefield (paraphrased from US General Eisenhower), it has already served its purpose by that time — to focus your attention on outcomes.

  • http://www.InstituteforPR.com/ Sean Williams

    Lee – one alternative might be to think of strategy as what you do before you implement — “step on the battlefield” in military parlance. Shel’s comment notwithstanding, you certainly wouldn’t simply decide one day to do a video, or a newsletter, or a press release, without having a clear idea of the business purpose for doing so. There is an anti-strategy cabal in PR that points out regularly how fast the world is changing and the uselessness of planning. But a strategy is a “why” document, not a “what”.

    The confusion reigns when we assume that a plan equals a straitjacket — as Shel’s mention demonstrates. A good strategic plan takes change into account, and focuses more on why we do what we do than how, just as you and Shel intimate. But though all strategy is useless once you step on the battlefield (paraphrased from US General Eisenhower), it has already served its purpose by that time — to focus your attention on outcomes.

  • http://leehopkins.net/ Lee Hopkins

    Great points, Sean!

    I am in total agreement with you on all of them. I think the confusion lies in the corporate world where, in my experience, strategy documents very often are mere tactical documents with the wrong title.

    The Comms Strategy should, in my view, outline where the comms are to be focused in the coming year, in support of the company strategy.

    It should not contain tactical terminology; that is not its job or its raison d’etre.

    A separate document, the tactical plan, should outline both the objectives and the tactics to be deployed, and is should be of interest only to the mid-level comms and other managers.

    Much as a high-ranking general trusts his or her subordinates to achieve the goals, so the Strategy Doc should trust the documents below it to actually achieve the goals, by whatever means at their disposal in line with ethics, cost and capability.

  • http://leehopkins.net Lee Hopkins

    Great points, Sean!

    I am in total agreement with you on all of them. I think the confusion lies in the corporate world where, in my experience, strategy documents very often are mere tactical documents with the wrong title.

    The Comms Strategy should, in my view, outline where the comms are to be focused in the coming year, in support of the company strategy.

    It should not contain tactical terminology; that is not its job or its raison d’etre.

    A separate document, the tactical plan, should outline both the objectives and the tactics to be deployed, and is should be of interest only to the mid-level comms and other managers.

    Much as a high-ranking general trusts his or her subordinates to achieve the goals, so the Strategy Doc should trust the documents below it to actually achieve the goals, by whatever means at their disposal in line with ethics, cost and capability.

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