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Saturday, March 22, 2008,4:51 AM
Strategy vs Tactics
By Craig Miyamoto,

(This is an expanded version of the 2002 First Quarter issue of Public Relations Strategies, a quarterly publication of Miyamoto Strategic Counsel)

There is often confusion about the difference between a “strategy” and a “tactic.” Occasionally, they are used interchangeably, and of course, this is a mistake.

STRATEGY involves the “big picture” – the overall plan, how the campaign will achieve organizational goals and objectives. It involves deciding who the important publics are and which of them will be the recipients of your messages (i.e., “target audiences”).

Strategic planning helps determine how the organization will be positioned; it decides how important publics will learn about the organization and how it can help them. It will provide avenues of discovery to facilitate this. Strategic thinking will create a reason for the audience should believe and support the organization, and it will help develop a consistent message and focus for the organization to uphold.

Each strategy must be considered on its own merits, and must be a viable option to be judged on its own strengths – one that definitely will solve the problem. Any approaches that will not solve the problem independently should be eliminated. If a combination of approaches can solve the problem, consider the combination as a strategic alternative.

Each alternative strategy should attain all audience objectives. All of the pros and cons of each strategy should be considered, and in the process, options are more easily identified. Identifying business risks and opportunities creates the chance to exercise informed judgment. Viable options are vital – knowing each option's advantages and disadvantages will enable decision-making based on fact instead of emotion.

Remember, you must take careful aim in everything you do in public relations. Don't shoot from the hip: you could end up with powder burns on your butt.)

TACTICS are activities specifically created and selected to reach specific and measurable objectives. Tactics are the actual ways in which the strategies are executed. They include newsletters, publicity, seminars, trade shows, advertising, Internet presence, and any other tool that target audiences actually are exposed to.

Look at each tactic from the standpoint of what it will do to achieve the objectives.

Tactics include:

ACTION EVENTS: Non-written tactics such as special events, demonstrations, exhibits, parades, community contributions (manpower, talent, advice, money) and other non-verbal activities.

COMMUNICATIONS TACTICS: Verbal tactics (oral and written) that use words or pictures. These include newsletters, flyers, news releases, brochures, direct mail, advertising, themes, slogans, the World Wide Web (WWW), and other initiatives that use words and language as their basis.

In both action events and communications tactics, separate the initiatives into message tactics (which will be used to get your message directly to the audience), and media tactics (how the news media will be utilized to publicize action events).

A Simple Example

You want to influence legislation at the State Legislature. Your strategy might be to contact all legislators directly and exclusively. Or, you might want to contact only the power leaders in the Legislature. Or, you might want to exert direct public constituency pressure on the Legislature. Or, you might want to fight your battle in the news media.

Each of these is a strategy. Pick one – the one that makes best use of your time, your money, and your people. Then, identify your publics, your audiences, your positioning, your general communications and actions thrusts, your rationale and messages.

Let’s say you decide to try and influence power leaders through direct public constituency pressure. Your tactics might include a letter-writing campaign by those legislators’ influencers – the individuals and organizations that s/he listens to. You might do a direct mailing to registered voters in the legislators’ district asking them to write, fax, phone or email their legislator (include sample letters and the legislator’s address). You might appear on talk shows. You might hold a rally in the legislators’ districts.


posted by R J Noriega
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