What: Blog

Time: 5 mins

Taking a strategic approach to PR and marketing has many benefits. It helps us make better use of time and money and has a positive, long-lasting impact on organisational success. But what does ‘strategic thinking’ really involve, and how can we do it better? Alison Arnot, Director at Catalyst Communications shares six steps for success.

A great PR or marketing strategy is a powerful tool, and the ability to think strategically grants any one of us a strong competitive edge.

Yet as deadlines loom and we tick through the to-do list, there’s a temptation to assume that ‘strategy’ happens elsewhere in the organisation, and that strategic thinking is someone else’s responsibility. 

 

Taking a strategic approach to PR and marketing has many benefits. It helps us make better use of time and money and has a positive, long-lasting impact on organisational success. But what does ‘strategic thinking’ really involve, and how can we do it better? Alison Arnot, Director at Catalyst Communications shares six steps for success.

A great PR or marketing strategy is a powerful tool, and the ability to think strategically grants any one of us a strong competitive edge.

Yet as deadlines loom and we tick through the to-do list, there’s a temptation to assume that ‘strategy’ happens elsewhere in the organisation, and that strategic thinking is someone else’s responsibility. 

In fact, the opposite is true, and in only a few simple steps, any of us can supercharge our strategic powers and become more focused and effective at work.

By incorporating everyday strategic thinking into your working day, you’ll get better at anticipating opportunity, managing resource, building meaningful connections and showing your value to the wider organisation. 

Here are six steps for success:

1. Look at the big picture

Strategic thinking ultimately leads to new ideas that better deliver your goals in a competitive, changing environment, so robust research is critical. 

How can you prioritise your activity if you don’t know how it fits into a wider vision.How can you encourage people to become more active if you don’t know the barriers they face? How can you build a social media strategy if you don’t know how different apps are used? And how can you fuel your own creativity if you’re not aware of the new trends and developments everyone else is talking about?

Keep up with industry news. Look at case studies, data and seek out diverse views on what works, what doesn’t, and what people truly care about so you have a better understanding of the political, economic, and social issues to consider if you are to make authentic and meaningful connections with your stakeholders.

2. Set clear objectives

Use your big picture knowledge to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) objectives that align to the objectives for your own organisation. 

Think about when you need to achieve these, who or what you’ll need to help you, and how you’ll overcome any obstacles that might land in your way. If they still feel right, jot them down and commit to them.

3. Define your approach

Use all the information you’ve gathered to help you decide which messages, stories, channels and activity will resonate most with the different people you need to talk to, then prioritise the ideas that directly support your objectives bearing in mind the time, costs and other resources you have available.

Think about potential issues as well as potential successes so that your messages hit the right note and you’re as ready to deal with challenge as you are to amplify the opportunities that come your way.

Explore the consequences of different options and of partnering up with different influential spokespeople and groups. Tweak your ideas if you must, and of course make sure that all your proposed activity can still be clearly linked back to the big picture vision.

4. Establish a plan

Capture and arrange your thinking digitally or with old fashioned paper and pen so you can prioritise, sequence and structure activity, allocate resources, refer back to ideas, and stay on track to achieveing your goals.

A good strategic plan will include the objectives you have set, the approach you’ll take, the things you’ll do, when and for how much money, as well how you’ll measure success - so don’t forget to include all this information alongside your list of tasks.

And whether you need a simple action plan or a more complex analysis of milestones, dependencies, and potential sticking points, always consider human needs over processes and tools.  It’s better to be flexible to new ideas than to rigidly forge ahead with content or activity that might not work as well as you had intitially thought.

5. Keep asking questions

As you begin to implement your ideas, repeatedly ask ‘Why are we here?’ ‘What do we need to do?’ ‘Who must we talk to?’ and ‘How can we do it better?’ to stop you from straying off in an unintended direction and keep a focus on your value, your priorities and your opportunities for improvement. 

And as you build your knowledge and understanding, try to stay curious and embrace new ideas. Challenge your assumptions and look at new information from different points of view to see if it can help you become even more effective.

6. Reflect and review

Finally, remember that regular monitoring and evaluation can help you sense check your own impact and efficiency and give you new ideas for the future. 

If something is working well - stick with it. But if your communication is failing to excite, or worse, frustrating people and causing friction, look again at how you might tweak it for a more positive response. 

Good luck, and here is to your strategic success!

Prepared for Sport Wales by Alison Arnot Chart.PR FCIPR, Director, Catalyst Communications 

www.linkedin.com/in/alisonarnot/

https://twitter.com/__catalyst

www.catalyst-communications.co.uk