The Modern Communications Plan: Strategies and Tactics

Continuing our series on building a modern communications plan, below we discuss choosing strategies and tactics to meet your goals and objectives.

I’ve heard it said one man’s strategy is another man’s tactic. For the purpose of this post, strategy is the “how” or way in which you are going to go about reaching goals and the tactics are the “what” or specific activities.

This section in your communications plan outlines the main strategies you will employ and why. For instance, strategies we often engage include media relations, social media blitzes, trade shows and special events, speaking engagements, publishing, community relations, executive visibility and branding, and more. These activities are entire programs with many moving parts or activities to engage in.

Choosing the appropriate strategies comes from knowing deeply who you are trying to communicate to. Knowing what they care about and what already influences them is key to choosing a strategy that will readily reach them.

For instance, if your audience attends industry events often – and makes decisions because of them – having a strong trade show and special event strategy would be wise. If your audience responds to authority figures and craves direction and guidance from leaders, perhaps elevating your executives via an executive reputation management and branding strategy is the way to go. Your strategy decisions should be well informed by your audience.

But in today’s world, you also need to see how your strategies work together. For instance, what occurs or results from one strategy can benefit another strategy. So, if you determine trade shows and traditional and social media are strategies to use, what can occur at the trade show to provide fodder for the media work? Can you see video taping media interviews, panel presentations and customer interactions to provide content for your social media channels?  Seeing the ties is important to ensure you are being efficient, remerchandising original content across several channels, utilizing spokespeople strategically and making sure all communications channels are working together.

Main Tactics
This section is the action plan. It answers what you are going to do on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis to move the communications effort forward. If media relations is part of your strategy mix, then how are you going to go about executing that program? Pitch story ideas, make announcements (and what kind and how often?) via press releases, attempt editorial coverage in trade media or the business press or other? Will you need an internal editorial calendar to motivate internal staff to contribute?

The tactical section informs the resources needed and timeline you must employ. Get as detailed as you believe you need to, depending on the size and characteristics of your communications execution team. Some people need a detailed road map, while others do not. Regardless, put at least the highest level tactics into a master calendar.

Know some strategies are not easily predicted, such as media relations and social media efforts. They are iterative in nature and require your ability to be agile and act on unforeseen results. For instance, you may issue some news and find 12 target media outlets interested in the story. You may have to drop everything to handle the interest. Or, you may find you’ll have to push your stories and messages harder than first anticipated. Build in some room in your timeline to manage the level of success (or failure) that is reached.

Tomorrow we will discuss choosing main communications channels.