TOP TIPS FOR CHANGEMAKERS #15
OBJECTIVES, STRATEGY AND TACTICS
Can you define strategy?
Well don’t worry, you’re not alone. Based on my very scientific poll and some extremely rigorous research*, I estimate that approximately 90% of entrepreneurs can’t define strategy. In this blog I am going to clear up the confusion and hopefully give you a useful framework to think about strategy for your business and your communications.
A common mistake is to use the words ‘objectives’ ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ interchangeably.
I am a words geek – so using the right word, in the right context, is important to me. Even more important though – if you’re developing your tactics without a clear strategy, you are likely to be ENTIRELY WASTING YOUR TIME.
Let me give you an example.
You’re an accountant.
You know that you want to grow your business – that’s your objective.
You start drafting press releases and sending them out to journalists. You get a couple of articles in, let’s say, Accountancy Age.
Six months later, your business still isn’t growing.
You’re deeply irritated and decide that PR is a complete waste of time.
Is PR a waste of time?
But if you jump straight to tactics then you haven’t done the work to establish if a PR focussed strategy is the right approach for your business. You probably also don’t know what media you should be targeting (clue: not Accountancy Age unless your clients are accountants) or what kinds of stories to be developing.
The fact that you’ve not achieved your objective is not because PR doesn’t work. It’s because you don’t have an actual strategy to grow your business.
OK. So we’re all agreed strategy is important right? So let’s get on with defining it.
We’ll start with objectives.
Your objectives should reflect your PRIORITIES within your business. These are objectives:
- Expand the business into the US market.
- Increasing your turnover by 35%
- Increasing brand awareness
- Improving customer retention
- Increasing average customer spend
Let’s be clear: getting on the front page of The Guardian is NOT an objective. It’s a tactic. Well, if we’re going to be pedantic about it, it’s actually an outcome but for the purposes of today it’s just important to understand that it’s not an objective.
Objectives are the WHY. As in: ‘Why are you putting together a communications strategy?’ – ‘Because I want to expand the business into the US market.’
Once you’ve established your objectives, then you develop your strategy. How? Well, there are several things you need to get clear on and this will take some work – which is probably why so many people don’t do it. The most important is PEOPLE. You need to get really clear on your ideal customers – and who influences them – so you know who you need to reach and importantly, how to reach them.
That article in Accountancy Age is no use to you if your clients are all reading Plumbers Weekly.
Next, you need to understand your own and your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you loathe public speaking and are no good at it – that is going to inform the choices you make about your strategy.
You’ll also need to take a look at your marketplace. Where are the opportunities and where are the threats in your sector?
Ultimately, strategy is the HOW. It’s how you are going to leverage your strengths and opportunities to overcome your weaknesses and threats in order to achieve your objectives. For example, based on your research and analysis, you might decide that the best way to pursue your objective of American expansion is by leveraging your unique intellectual property (eg: the process you’ve developed or system you’ve created) and developing a thought leadership strategy.
NOW you get to play. Now you get to decide what specific tactics and actions you’ll be taking to deliver that strategy and achieve your objectives. Writing press releases; approaching event organisers to offer yourself up as a speaker; reaching out to speak on podcasts…these are all tactics. These are the WHAT.
There we go. Objectives. Strategy. Tactics. Why. How. What.
Let me give you one more analogy. This was shared with me by a guy in a bar. We’d just been to a training course on PR strategy and on the way to the bar had been talking about how we would explain the difference between objectives, strategy and tactics.
Halfway through the evening, this guy – by now a little the ‘worse for wear’ – comes bumbling over to me and says:
‘I’ve GOT IT! The best way to explain objectives, strategy and tactics…are you ready?’
My breath was truly baited at this point! He went on…
‘My objective is to sleep with you. My strategy is to get you drunk. My tactics are to buy you doubles all evening and initiate drinking games.’
Well, dear Reader, he left the bar that night alone. And very, very drunk. Having learnt two more valuable lessons.
1. Always make sure your strategy is based on sound research.
2. Never play drinking games with a former publican’s daughter.
Let’s ACTUALLY make a difference.
*Survey and research conducted between 23 June and 25 June 2020…by me asking my mates!
YOU HAVE MARKETING SUPERPOWERS®
You’re not bad at promoting your business, you’re just trying to do it in a way that doesn’t work for you.
Find out what your MARKETING SUPERPOWERS ® are and start communicating with your audience in a way that resonates with them & feels comfortable, authentic and natural for YOU.
Phew! Doesn’t that sounds awesome?
week I wrote a newsletter that caused more people to unsubscribe from my list than almost anything I have ever written before. I'm not concerned - clearly they are not my people - but I thought I'd share it here so you can tell me: would this cause YOU to unsubscribe?
"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels."
I remember the first time I heard that quote.
I was in my teens. I laughed.
Then as I began to think seriously about my career, my Mum explained to me that to be a successful career woman meant working twice as hard as a man to be considered half as good (and paid half as much).
I was in my early twenties. I thought she was exaggerating.
After I burnt out for the second time, I went to a conference and listened to a passionate and eloquent woman - who has subsequently become a great friend - explain something that should have been utterly obvious to me: that our entire cultural paradigm is based on structures set up by men and for men.
I was in my forties. And I cried.
Because it is exhausting having to don your Superwoman cape every day to ‘compete’ in the workplace.
As a single woman, I didn’t have to juggle work with family.
As a white, middle-class, cis-gendered, heterosexual and mainly able-bodied woman, I wasn’t dealing with the raft of intersectional prejudices beyond your average, everyday sexism.
But I was still exhausted.
And it wasn’t just because the systems that we work within weren’t designed for women but for men who had stay-at-home wives doing all of the work in the home.
It’s because for me - as for so many women - every day was and is a balancing act.
Every day is a tightrope walk between safety and danger; between being listened to and dismissed; between familiarity and harassment; between authenticity and playing the game.
Every day is a fight to be seen, to be heard, to be respected, to be autonomous, to be considered, to be valued, to be safe.
In the workplace, in our social spaces, in our homes, in our politics, in our media.
This week my friend and client Harriet Waley-Cohen shared a post about this on LinkedIn. I’m going to share a section of her post here because she has put this so much more eloquently than I could:
"Sometimes it amazes me that there isn't a massive uprising.
Women are fed up of being objectified and judged on our looks, and only respected by how fu*&able we are deemed to be.
We are exhausted by feeling unsafe everywhere we go and watching our backs.
We are exasperated with not being paid the same, of our careers, choices and finances being marginalised because of caring expectations.
We are in despair about our allegations against powerful men being ignored because these men are too valuable to be held to account.
We are done with being told our tone of voice is the bloody problem, that we are too emotional.
We have had enough of not being able to trust the police or the legal system, and of people saying 'innocent until proven guilty' when the stats for prosecutions are laughably low and we all know most rapists never face any real consequences.
We are fed up of being told that it's not all men, because we never said it was, and it hurts to see so few men actively working towards making things better."
There has been an outpouring of grief, support and righteous anger in the comments on Harriet’s post. Of course there has. Because this is nearly every woman’s lived experience. And it is not OK.
I have written about these issues before in this newsletter. In the wake of the Sarah Everard murder and after the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade. And there’s a part of me that didn’t want to write about this again. A part of me was concerned that you - my wonderful community - would grow bored of me ‘ranting on’ about this issue. A part of me that feared being judged or dismissed.
And that’s exhausting too, right?
The constant self-censorship. The constant voice in my head telling me that I can’t say this, shouldn’t write about that, mustn’t be too emotional, too strident, too ‘shouty’.
Well, in the nicest possible sense: f*&k that.
I am in my fifties now and as tired as some people may be of hearing me talk about these things, trust me I am WAY more tired of still having to talk about them. But until there is equity, it is up to every one of us to keep ‘banging on’.
And we need to do more than rant, we need to ACT.
Because here’s the thing, whatever your gender, you can either be an ally or you can be complicit in the problem. Please choose to be an ally. Here are three things you can do:
- Support people like Harriet when they share publicly about these issues. This kind of content often attracts trolls and the ‘not all men’ brigade - and it can be overwhelming to have to do all the rebuttal yourself. Another friend and client - the fabulous Stephanie Aitken, also did a post this week on a related topic and spent many hours having to deal with trolls in the comments. Help them.
- Call out misogyny, sexism, harassment, prejudice and bigotry when you see it - and when you feel safe to do so. I’m not advocating that you intervene when doing so would put you in real physical danger. But if a colleague makes an off-colour remark; if a family member behaves in a way that is inappropriate; if a friend displays ignorance, aggression or bias: name it. Don’t just smile and secretly roll your eyes. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t be afraid to be ‘awkward’. Have the conversation.
- Engage the next generation. Several of the commenters on Harriet’s post talked about children watching violent porn. They shared stories of how boys’ attitudes to girls are in some cases worse now than they were when I was a teen. The murder of Elianne Andam this week makes it clear just how important it is to speak to our children about these issues. Talk to the young people in your life. Find out about their experiences. Give them a safe space to explore these issues. And educate them about respect and equity. If we are going to break this cycle, this is VITAL work. Don’t shy away from it.
There is so much more that we could all be doing but this would be an amazing start!
OK. Rant over, for today.
I’m not promising I won’t come back to this again.
My most fervent wish is that there will come a day when it won’t be necessary.
I hope to see that day in my lifetime.
My biggest fear is that I will not.
I think that will do for now - I do hope it has been helpful!