June 29, 2022 – One of my biggest pet peeves of the public relations profession is the preoccupation some practitioners have with tactics.
When initially discussing a client’s new product, some PR pros will talk endlessly about possible celebrity endorsers, kickoff events or key journalists to pitch. It’s understandable because successfully executing tactics is often a source of fun and sometimes significant praise.
But all too often discussions of strategy take a backseat to tactics. This occurs in all the disciplines of public relations, ranging from internal and marketing communications to social media and brand journalism.
Take, for example, a bank that needs to reduce its number of branches. Some practitioners immediately would advocate for a campaign to highlight the bank’s multiple online capabilities. Others might want to increase the bank’s philanthropic efforts in affected communities. Others, meanwhile, might suggest the bank highlight its long history of change.
All are sound ideas. But they all need a strategic thread to tie them together. Maybe it’s messaging that says the bank is committed to doing business where customers are, which today is increasingly online. Maybe it’s the concept that the bank wants to make it easy for clients to do business with the institution.
That’s where the discussion should begin. What’s the strategy? Moreover, how does it relate to the bank’s overall strategic plan? All too often the discussion begins and ends with tactics.
I see this often in judging entries for PRSA chapters nationwide, which merely adds to my frustration. I can only hope that my comments on the judging forms, offered in a diplomatic and constructive manner, help practitioners to think strategically … and at the beginning the planning process.