The difference between strategy and tactics


We often hear about strategy in the world of business, and the PR and communication business is no different. Too often, however, many businesses confuse their communication tactics with strategy.

Here’s a simple way to remember the difference between strategy and tactics when developing your business’ communications.

Your communication strategy is the ‘what’ you are trying to achieve. The tactics are the ‘how’ you are going to achieve it.

In military terms, strategy broadly is all the planning, coordination and military operations to meet the overall objectives. The tactics are all the decisions and actions on the field of battle, e.g. take that hill, sink that ship, that contribute to achieving the long term objective of winning the war.

The strategy and tactics are interdependent; there will be short term and long-term objectives along the way, and tactics to support these, that contribute to overall to the winning strategy.

Strategy in PR and Communication

Before you start drafting your organisation’s communication strategy, first read the overall business plan and its goals.

What does your organisation hope to achieve? What will success look like? How will you know when you have won? Then consider how a communication plan can help achieve these goals.

If the objective is to double market share in three years, the strategy could include acquisitions to achieve this. Perhaps the company is looking to list, or the owners could be looking to sell the business.

Strategies could include raising the profile of the business in key business and trade publications, speaking opportunities for key personnel, or thought leadership opportunities.

An advocacy organisation looking to change policy could focus on influencing key decision makers ‘behind the scenes’ or it could go hard in the media and mobilise its followers on social media. The strategy the organisation decides to pursue will determine the tactics.

Tactics in PR and Communication

The tactics are the specific actions that the organisation will take to achieve its strategic goals.

If the strategy is to quietly influence behind the scenes to achieve change, then one-on-one meetings with decision makers, building advocates in the community or helping others to spread your message may be effective tactics.

Tactics can also be easily shifted while the overall strategic goals may remain stable. Where mainstream media coverage may have once been effective, alternative channels from social media, podcasts, or even the company’s own blog may now be more effective tactics to achieve your goals.

Don’t overlook the importance of planning

As strategy is the long term ‘what’ you’re aiming to achieve, it is important to do extensive research and planning up front. This discovery phase is vital to initiate the development of the strategy, and should cover the following elements:

  • Goals and Objectives – ensuring the PR and communication objectives are aligned with overall business objectives
  • Stakeholders – thoroughly researching existing and prospective stakeholders, and how they consume messaging to best target them through communication channels
  • SWOT Analysis – identifying areas of opportunity and improvement to generate the best results possible while mitigating threats and weaknesses
  • Key Messages – drafting and finalising key messages to ensure consistent and controlled communication for each stakeholder group
  • Issues Management – identify the tripwires up front and have a plan for avoiding and / or defusing them
  • Timeline of Proposed Activity – what are you going to do, and when
  • Measurement and Evaluation – establish and outline tools required to measure the results of the communications to ensure success is forecasted accurately and monitored regularly

Whether you need to develop your first communication strategy or you’re looking to update an existing strategy due to developments in the business or in the communication landscape, Elevate can expertly and objectively guide your next steps.

Related Articles

Let's work together.

If you’re looking for the ultimate partner to drive you towards your business goals, get in touch with our team.