If you are going to set out to do something, whatever it is, then it makes sense to have a plan for what you are going to do. Having a plan is good. But to know why you are going to do it and to be able to assess whether you have achieved it you need something more and simplistically for me that is the strategy.
For communication and public relations professionals having a strategy is really critical. It is the strategy that helps you to define the problem or issue, and then allows you to clearly articulate the thought process that gets you to define a particular course of action or plan. There is no way I would tolerate a member of the team that was unable or unwilling to develop the strategy before producing a plan.
This all seems really basic but I have been in meetings and had discussions recently that have highlighted producing a strategy rather than just a plan appears to be losing favour in some quarters. I am not clear why this is. Perhaps it is seen to be too time-consuming as resources are being stretched, or perhaps we think the detail of the strategy is so clear to all that it doesn’t need to be written down? I have not yet been able to get to a point of understanding the real reasons. One thing is clear, it is not something that I subscribe to.
The development of a clear communication strategy that articulates what the issue is, who it affects, how it affects them, what messages are needed, who needs them, and how they can best get those messages is essential. Without it how can communication professionals get chief executive level support for activity? How can the impact of that activity be quantified and the success or failure recognised? How can we learn and develop so that we improve future projects?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want us to be strategy mad. I don’t want people writing strategies at the expense of actually doing the work. There are low-level communication actions that can be swiftly dealt with and don’t need a strategy. But for all those significant projects involving people or money over a long period of time a clear communication strategy is essential.
So, if I get told we don’t need a strategy I will have to disagree and make sure that the importance of articulating clear aims and objectives is understood. You are expected to show your ‘workings out’ for maths exams which is exactly what the strategy is, something available for all that shows how the cogs fit together. Or am I being too traditional?