The fundamentals of strategy are always the same

 “A company without a communication strategy is like a ship without a compass”

In an age where demonstrating results of PR campaigns and the ROI of communication spend is increasingly important, I am still amazed when I come across an organisation that is running full-speed with little or no communication strategy, project plan or activity calendar in place. Inside such organisations, panic sets in whenever the C-Suite demands a press release (often the demand is not newsworthy), when a journalist requests an interview, or product managers demand an awareness campaign.

A company without a communication strategy is like a ship without a compass – meaning that the communication will only ever be ad-hoc, a waste of time AND resources, and at best reactive. Reporting on the success of the communication programme without a proper strategy is impossible, and at best can only deliver a coverage report stacked full of clippings.

Fortunately for those who have yet to put a communication strategy in place, the fundamentals of strategy are the same regardless of what industry, type of communication (PR, investor relations, employee communication), or the medium you think you should be using. In a nutshell, communication strategy must cover at a minimum: research, objectives, approach, tools/tactics, resources/budgets and evaluation.

The real power of a communication strategy is identifying how it fits into the bigger organisational picture – how it supports the overall objectives, such as reputational, business growth etc. This is the big picture question that asks ‘what is the point?’.

When building a communication strategy, the first step is to completely understand the reason communication is needed. Is it to support a business plan, an individual project, or activity? You need to ask ‘what is the point?’ before going down the road of building your strategy.

Strategy is more than the glue that holds tactics together; it provides direction and rationale for everything that we do in communications. Without it, we would stumble aimlessly through a darkened business forest and can be successfully challenged and undermined at every step by one simple question: why?

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