Getting down to tactics


When you’re immersed in the long haul of strategic communications planning, figuring out tactics may well be the most exciting part of the whole enterprise. At last, you get to translate all of your conceptual planning into concrete activities that achieve results!

Here’s the most important thing to keep in mind as you enter the realm of tactics: you’re dealing with a fixed envelope of money, staff, time and mental space. Your challenge is to figure out which efforts will be most strategically effective in helping your organization reach its goals.

The first step in tactical planning is to connect your objectives, situational analysis, strategic directions, audiences and messaging to a set of recommended activities. (This already puts you miles ahead of the many organizations that repeat the same tactics year after year without asking “how is this working for us?”).

Begin by listing all the standard communications tactics currently used by your organization (an annual report, website, blog, social media, speeches, brochures, events, trade show booth, etc.). Be sure to think broadly about where communications happens: for instance, the most significant channel for your organization might be its client service office, which has extensive direct contact with key audiences.

Next, consider systematically what’s working and what’s not among your existing tactics. This may lead you to recommend eliminating low-value tactics in order to free up some of your budget, staff time and mental space to take on new and more effective ones. (Case in point: even if your organization’s governance requirements mandate an Annual Report, a tactical assessment might show that the report has a high cost relative to the size of its readership—and so might justify a digital-only format.)

Long story short: when it comes to evaluating communications tactics, lay them all out and then cut your losses to reap the gains.

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