What is a comms strategy, and how do you define the difference between a strategy and tactics? Find out in this episode, and learn how to analyse research, pull-out key insights and apply these to your communications strategy.
We also talk top tips on getting creative with your campaigns once your strategy is decided, with ideas and tactics you can use.
Jenny: Hello, and welcome to episode two of the Revitalize & Grow podcast, helping you with all your PR and marketing needs. I’m Jenny, the host and I am joined once again by my colleague, Kate.
Kate: Hello everybody.
Jenny: Today we are going to look at strategy – what it is? Because quite often, people aren’t always sure.
It’s one of those terms that gets thrown around across all kinds of industries. What we do mean by a strategy and how do you form it? And then how that will start leading the direction of your marketing and PR tactics. Hopefully by the end of this, it’ll all be very clear.
Don’t be scared by the terminology, it is horrible. Isn’t it? And I’m the same. I own a business and I get so baffled by some of the jargon that flies around. Sometimes it can be really confusing. And when you feel confused, it can paralyze you and you don’t end up doing anything.
So what we really want to do is break it down. Anybody can create. A PR strategy. And there are just some tips and tricks that can help you. And what we’re really trying to focus on today are the things that people tend to overlook. Yeah. Yeah. Because actually it’s the things that people overlook that end up costing you time and money, and actually don’t get you the results that you want to.
We’re great advocates here. If you’re going to do something, do it well, do it properly, spend the time doing it and you will get the results.
Yes. There’s no point without a strategy. You are just muddling your way through various bits of activities that you think you should be doing without actually working towards a very specific goal. And it all just becomes noise. Doesn’t it? It does.
So quite often people don’t ask for help when they need it, because they feel well, I own a business, I should understand the strategy and all of this stuff. I’m strategic. Yeah. So many of us, myself included. You can’t be an expert in everything and so you ended up defaulting to the stuff that you know, and that you’re good at.
And yeah, it’s not that difficult. Yeah. I thought maybe you can take us through exactly what we mean when we say a strategy, when we talk about strategy and tactics, fantastic jargon thrown out there. But what do we mean that what’s the difference between your strategy and then your tactical activity?
Yeah, we talk about it all the time. And we often find clients don’t really have a strategy. They just don’t and this can be big businesses, small businesses. So you’re not alone. If you’re listening to this and thinking you don’t know, you are not alone. And the way that we approach a strategy is really the bigger picture stuff.
So you need to think about where you are now with your business, where you want to be. And with this, we tend to say, keep it, 12 months, 18 months, or six months if you need to, don’t look too far ahead because again, it all just becomes a bit pie in the sky too bit, too big to understand.
So really, think about those three things. Where are you now? Where do you need to be? And how are you going to get there and the tactics of how are you going to get that bits there? The tactical stuff is the stuff that you do every single day, the daily activities to help you to reach your goals. Yeah. So is that good enough?
For example, we want to go into the herbal tea market. We’ve done our business research and we can see there’s a nice chunk of market we can go into. But what do we need to do? So we have our business goals e.g. we might want to have X percent of the share within a certain time. And then we will have our communication goals, which will be things like, we need to increase traffic to our website by 50% competitive of last year. And I think the thing is goals and objectives need to have those numbers in to make them achievable.
Because if you just say. Yeah, increased traffic to the website, then what does that mean? Does that mean one extra sale we’re who, constantly have to put a number in, it says, w what you’re aiming towards. So it could also be things like encouraging repeat purchases from your existing customers.
And it could be increasing your average order value, whatever it is, make it very relevant to your business.
We’re going to break down how you can create a strategy. And I think we were saying before, the biggest mistake that people make as they do not do their research and they don’t plan, they just get really excited.
Like right now we’re really excited about our new tea brand. So the temptation is we’re just going to start telling everybody how amazing it is along with every other tea brand in the world and we’re doing some really creative, funny stuff, and people are finding it hilarious and great, but actually it’s not making a dent on any of those proper business objectives.
And often it’s because there’s not the research and planning that’s been done, that’s been done behind it. And actually, it’s a good point. What you said Kate about having those very smart objectives cause that we will. Yeah, walk through now how to stop, where to start in terms of forming your communication strategy.
And it’s very important that throughout this always thinking about that measurement side of things and how you’re going to measure success and what those really smart objectives are from the very beginning. Everything you do is you’re planning it as you’re constantly going back and thinking, how are we going to measure it?
How are we going to see the impact of this? Otherwise, you’ll end up sometimes blindly going down a route that, yeah. Oh, it’s so easily done. It’s so easily done. And the only way to keep on track is to have that plan in place. And I think there were two really important questions that you need to keep asking yourself throughout is there is the how, and probably more importantly actually.
It’s the why. And when we’re speaking to clients, we’ve become like annoying two year olds.
That kind of why? But it’s amazing how that question can actually really stump you when someone says, why are you doing that? It’s not always very easy to answer. And if it isn’t easy to answer, you’re probably not doing the right thing. So you will hear us always talking about the why.
And if anybody listening wants to learn more about why and the power of why, we’re great fans of Simon Sinek, who is, he does loads of TED talks. He’s a bit better business guru, isn’t he? But he’s really inspirational. And he’s got books and all sorts of stuff. So look him up if you want to know more about it.
I think it’s about five minute snippet he’s done on of his TED talk and it’s so valuable and he’s got the golden circle, which is the why, what, how and how actually many companies start from the outside and start talking about what they do and how they do it, but they don’t actually talk about.
Why they do it and really that’s why. And it’s because it’s the most difficult thing to explain and that isn’t why we do it because we’re making money. It’s not, I want my business to grow the why. And he uses the example of Apple because it’s very tangible, lots of people can relate to it.
And if you look at their marketing, they don’t talk about, we create loads of fantastic computers. So go and buy one. They talk about how they’re going to change. Change the world and have a dent on the universe. And we create, very beautifully made products and we just happen to make computers. Why don’t you go and buy one? He explains that way. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Start with that. Why, what is the purpose? Yeah. Before you start going on to anything else, you just dropped in another beautiful jargon word, which is purpose. It’s an important one.
And this one really grinds my gears a little bit because I think there’s books on purpose. We hear it all the time. What’s your purpose? What’s your purpose? And I think now so many companies feel well, we need to have a purpose. And so they try and create a purpose of, we need to be, oh, we need to be, what are people interested in at the moment?
Oh, okay. Sustainability. So yeah, we need that to be our purpose. And it’s yes, you do need to consider sustainability for your business. Of course you do. But is it your purpose? Is that why you started your business? Probably not. And I think people really. Overthink the word purpose. And ultimately purpose is just about knowing why your company exists beyond selling products and services.
So your purpose doesn’t necessarily have to mean something really profound. It just has to be real. Otherwise people see right through it and it’s not what you want anyway, you want people, the people who engaged with your business properly, or those that are bought into your why and your purpose and that having that in mind, the reason we say you should start with that.
Absolutely everything you do, all the time, should come back to your purpose and your why. Otherwise, you lose sight and you’re just another company touting your words to somebody. Yeah. And people really care about this stuff.
There’s so much research been done. Around purpose and around what attracts customers to brands and people do care nowadays, the brands that they purchase from, they really care about all of this stuff. And equally it’s also true that your purpose might alienate some people, there might be some people who don’t agree with what you’re doing, but that’s okay because actually it’s about building the right community.
No company can be all things to all people. And that’s a really common thing that we find clients saying, who’s this product for. Think about what your business is, what problem is your business solving for your customers? It’s all of these things and it’s really sticking it back to basic.
And quite often, this is why people do come to us because it’s very difficult to do that when you’re so immersed in your own business, it’s really hard. And it also means you also have to be a little bit self-critical and that can be quite hard to yes. Yeah. And that’s as you say, otherwise we do and we’ll go through it now, the importance of knowing the answers to all these questions is really important.
It’s very tempting to start trying to be creative and start just want to get in front of those people and start, driving our business. And we’ve got all these amazing, really creative ideas that we’re going to do on social media. And it’s until you’ve got these things nailed, you will be going off in a direction that could be the completely wrong way.
Once you found out your why and your purpose, and you’ve really distilled that. Again, go and watch this guy’s TED talk, it’s brilliant.
Think about it with our tea brand. So we are tea brand we’ve been we’re a boutique brand. We’re quite small and we’re very ethical. So our purpose is about sourcing ethically. Produced tea from all around the world. We’re very ethical. That’s what we care about. And we really care about making sure that it’s fair trade and of that.
That’s a purpose.
What we need to start doing is doing some research and planning, because in my mind I might be thinking we already sell tea and know who we’re selling to. We know absolutely everything there is to know about tea. But actually we’re launching herbal teas now.
So Jenny, you are a professional team drinker. Yeah. So if you were buying tea from the place, you always buy your tea from, and suddenly I said to you, hey, you’re one of our best customer, we’re launching a whole range of herbal teas.
Nah. No, not for me. I’m not herbal tea drinker, I’ve bought into your brand but it’s going to take a lot to get me to drink some herbal tea. I’m not a big fan.
So we shouldn’t just assume that our new product is going to appeal to our existing customers. So I think this is a very long winded way of saying you’ve really to spend some time learning who your audience is.
To this you need to start with research. There’s some really simple ways you can do that. You don’t have to pay for lots of very expensive monks research because as you are likely to be a small business, you don’t have the, his budget budgets necessarily, but there are simple online tools, you’ve got your average Google search anyway. Look at what’s being said in the media, Google trends, answer the public, which is one we use quite a lot. Now that’s a platform. You get a certain amount of free searches a day, but you can type in a term and it will tell you. All the things that people are Googling around that term.
So for our tea company, we would type in herbal teas and you would look at all the most popular questions that people are searching around, around herbal teas. And then you can start thinking about the sorts of problems and challenges, answering those and making sure that our communications, when they’re Googling for those terms were up there on page one.
We’re in this really lovely position now. We can access so much data for free there’s loads of knowledge that you can get. Just by using the tools such as Google, there’s so many free tools! In an ideal world, you would invest a bit of money and get some proper market research done, but there will always be a cost to that.
Yeah. And that can range anywhere between sort of a couple of thousand up to ridiculous. But I think what we tend to say to people and some practical advice in terms of breaking it down. One way to think about it is who are your current customers and stakeholders and what do you know about them?
And you probably know quite a lot about your existing customers. Otherwise you could literally have 1,000,001 different profiles, and we need to try not to make too much work for yourself here. Try and break it down into yet common audience characteristics. It could be gender age, demographics, so it could just be behaviours. And then once you’ve got that, you’ve got your customer profiles sorted, and then you can start building from there.
Okay. Who are these people? What interests them and possibly the most important one of all is how do they like to consume information? Going back to our herbal tea band? If we were specifically looking to sell this product to over sixties, for example, the chances are they’re not going to be on Instagram and Tik TOK that isn’t the right platform.
And I am being very generalising, but it is a typical, you need to know that your audience is actually reading. Where were you personally, it’s just knowing them. You just need to know them inside out don’t you, before you can start even thinking about the ways you’re going to reach them.
So we’ve talked about your why and your purpose, we know our audience, we know them inside out. We know where these herbal tea drinkers are.
And then it’s also knowing the current landscape and the context. So this is where you need to do a bit more research.
Now, one thing that we always say to people when they’re doing this research, go and have a look at what other brands are doing now this could be your direct competitors because you’ll see things that they’re doing really well. You can have a look at their social media and just see what posts are getting, a lot of attention and what things aren’t working, but it could also just be other brands that you align yourself with in terms of your purpose and look at how they’re getting their messaging out.
Don’t copy, but it’s okay to look and to get inspiration and to see where there are gaps in the market. And I quite often find that pulling together a really simple table of all of the different brands that you’re looking at. Look at things like the frequency of their communications, the different type of communications that they have.
And you start to build this picture. And what that picture will do is tell you really good things that you can do, but it also shows you where the gaps are. And it’s actually where the gaps are, is normally that sweet point that you want to get, because that’s going to cut you through the noise and you’re saying something different than to what everybody else is saying.
Once you’ve got, you’ve got your audience research, you’ve looked at the landscape and the industry then it’s time to regroup, even if you’re on your own, regroup with yourself.
Yeah. Really analyse all of that research, pull out those key themes and threads that are coming out. It’s a big sweet spot. This is what I need to be doing. This is my strategy. This is my path to reaching my ultimate goal. And then once you’ve done that, the fun begins again. It does take time, but it is actually quite fun because it suddenly reveals the answers to you, even if what you thought is coming out as, okay, assumptions were right. There’s always going to be something where you get, You almost have that a-ha moment, yes. That’s it. That’s the answer. And that’s where I need to take this.
Everything else that you do becomes easier. And I think most importantly, you’ll actually become more self-assured that you are doing the right activity and then it makes it a bit easier to justify any spend that you need to put behind it. Exactly that. And as we’ve said before, it’s worth noting again, that throughout this whole process, you are constantly thinking about how you will be measuring. Often marketing is the first budget to go, so you need to make sure that you are measuring effectively, so you can really show how beneficial it is to the business.
And it’s something that we know is a big challenge for people within marketing in PR is measurement and showing this value, but it is absolutely possible. And we will be doing full episode on that. Yeah.
You can only measure it if you have a plan, if you have a strategy. So as Jenny’s already said, this is part of the measurement. So don’t just skip to the end bit about all. How am I going to tie all of this to my boss? It’s all. It’s all a piece of the jigsaw that need to come together.
Some people find it really easy to be creative and to come up with lots of ideas, other people don’t. And what I would say is that where possible try and have some fun with this stuff. So if you do have a team, get everybody around the table and just have a bit of fun brainstorming, cause actually what you need is the really creative people. But you also need the kind of slightly more strategic devil’s advocate with your little bit and the people who are going to challenge that creativity, because the more different personalities you can get in a room together for this stuff, the better.
You can always reign in the creativity. You may as well go huge and crazy and reign it in. But as you say, you need, you do also need to still know what you need to be coming back to. And you’ll still know those key the people you should be reaching are and what sort of messaging you’ll be using.
So, should we go back to our tea brand Jenny? So what are we going to do? We know who our people area and we know what we want to do. Step one, what would I say? I think we need to tell our existing customers about our new product lines. Because although you are not the target customer, somebody else who absolutely loves to you might be thinking, actually I need to stop having so much caffeine.
And although I might not be your key customer, I would certainly say I’m loyal to the brand. So I would recommend it. I think the point is that you should always tell the people who are already engaged with your business about a new product or a service.
If that’s what you’re doing, talk to those people first, because they are important and you don’t want to isolate them. They feel that. They’re owed an explanation really for everything that you do. So tell them first, maybe even you could even offer them a bit of an exclusive deal because they’ve been really good customers.
Why don’t you reward them? You could, you can give them the opportunity to try it. Some of the new teas that were launched. Yeah. And that she slightly, sorry, slightly circling back again, is that you do have them there as an engaged audience already. So when you’re doing your research, you should already be reaching out to them as well to find out what their appetite is for your new herbal tea and their thoughts around it.
So it’s all that can all be part of your research as well and offer them incentives to be involved. As you say, giveaways. Freebies anything, then they can offer you some insights and help you to develop your strategy in the first place. I think a massive trap that people fall into. So again, launching our herbal teas, massive trap that people fall into is going by, okay, we’re just going to talk about ourselves. All we’re doing is shouting at all customers, essentially saying, buy me.
And we’re not giving them any reason why. And again, that goes back to the purpose and everything else. And yeah. You should actually be making your communications more about your customers. It’s about storytelling again, isn’t it telling? So we tend to operate again, this a bit of a helpful tip across your marketing.
It’s almost that 80:20 rule, isn’t it? So actually only 20% of the stuff that you’re doing should be really obvious, here I am salesy buy me. I’m nice and shiny and sitting on a shelf, pick me up and buy me the rest of it should be stuff that’s going to be really helpful to your consumer. So for herbal teas, there’s a lot of content that we could create Jenny around it.
Yeah. I was going to say health and wellbeing, which has only increased really. As again, if we’ve been doing all which we have, we’ve done our research. We’re looking at the industry and the current context and Without wishing to date today’s episode. The past year there has been an incredible focus on health and wellbeing, and there is, that’s not going to go away over the next year.
So you know already that’s going to be a trend you need to be in on, but equally you need to be saying something different to everybody else. I say to you, Jenny, if you were my client, I might say, okay, let’s then let’s create a blog and let’s create some really nice content on our website, because I think we always have to think with everything that we’re doing, tactically, what do we want people to do?
The really obvious answer is where we want them to go out and buy our products. How are they going to do that? Then if we’re doing a blog, what do we want people to do at the end of the block? We want them probably to go to our websites, to go to where we’re selling.
We’ve got an e-commerce store and our website, and we want to send them that to make the purchase, but we have to take them on a journey to get them there. Don’t we? So if we’re doing a blog. I might say, okay let’s do a blog and we’re going to do it over the course of a month. And once a week, we’re just going to talk about tips, top tips for people to really look after their health and wellbeing.
It’s building that story around that. Why, you know why eventually you lead them towards the herbal tea, being a great, health and wellbeing benefit, but it’s not always in your face. You really want to be engaging people on a much bigger level than that.
And that will again, come out of the research that you’ve done. You’ll know, what’s you’ll know what they’re interested in and you’ll know. What routes they go to buying new brands. So that’s where you really can’t skip that really important part. Otherwise you’ve just got a megaphone and you’re shouting at people to purchase your new product.
You might get some conversions in that. People do run fairly successful businesses and sales will come, but I would say that you need to be thinking about anything you’re doing as a long-term goal as well. So yeah. Okay. You might get one sale by saying here, buy my tea. But what you want to do is you want to keep that customer for a lifetime, if you can.
And they’re only going to do that. If they feel that they’re getting something other than tea from you, otherwise they’ll just pick up whatever’s in front of them on the shelf. So if we were doing a lavender tea to help aid sleep, we’d probably want to do some really nice campaigns all about how to get a good night’s sleep.
They’re going to feel that value from the information they’re getting, which is going to suck them into the brand.
What about media relations? Quite often, we go and we meet with clients and they go, we’re launching a new tea, we want to be in the Times. How easy is it? Does it do well? Good question. And we will do a bit of a one-on-one later on it as well to delve further into it, but I think our experiences, people immediately think it’s like the best route to go to. I like seeing my product in a nice glossy magazine. And if that is going to get you the results you need, then absolutely. Make it a priority, but it’s just, it’s a piece of a bigger pie.
It’s just a small piece. It’s another way to drive awareness, but it can’t be the only thing you’re doing. It can be really effective. But if all you care about is just getting coverage in magazines, I think you need to question your whole strategy really? Because the question you should always be asking is why is it so important for you to be in a magazine? If you literally just want the glory of that, then that’s fine. But ultimately driving sales, it’s one touch point.
The Daily Mail has a huge readership. Massive. If you’re reporting on just unique users it’s massive and you can get yourself and then say we reached X many people, and God forbid, you start trying to compare that to advertising equivalents.
It’s not necessarily targeted out of all of those people that are reading that publication. Are they, your audience, are you really targeting the people that are going to purchase your tea brand? So it’s media relations has its place, but you shouldn’t get too focused on the big boys.
But yes, media relations, social media. I think everyone knows that’s, a channel. You should be looking at if it works for your audience. At the trade shows, consumer shows, podcast, video etc. There’s probably like eight to 10 key things that you should be looking at in terms of the sort of content that you’re going to put out and the types of channels that you have access to and making them work really hard for you.
Let’s also look at PESO – paid, earned, shared and owned. When you are creating your communication strategy, you should think about every single one of those. So paid is your advertising. Earned is your media relations. Shared, that’s going to be your social channels, and things like your blog and website.
So when you’re thinking about your strategy, if you think about that PESO model, then you will make sure you’re hitting all those channels. And they’re all, they’ve all as important as each other. As long as you are doing your research and you know who your audience is, the landscape, the why’s, the purpose, you can’t go too badly wrong.
Keep questioning. How is it going? Why what’s the benefit? Yeah. Who cares? There’s always a really good question to ask actually who actually cares about what you’re talking about. For us doing this podcast, we think that it’s going to be small businesses who care because we’re really talking about the basics, and that’s who we’re aiming at.
So when you set your strategy and then you start looking at the more tactical pieces and the tactical activity, which we will, we’re going to break down in each episode, but you do need to just keep revisiting that.
Why keep measuring what you’re doing, keep revisiting that. Why? And do you know what? There’s no shame in saying, do you know what, this isn’t the right direction? We did our research. We set our strategy. We planned. This should be working. And it might not be, and it’s fine, then you need to revisit have a look at what you’re doing and change tact, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think sometimes there can be a real resistance to just accept that you need to change tact.
That’s fine. Very sadly, we all know that change things happen. You could have the best plan in the world, but you only need one thing externally that you have no control off to change and your whole plan actually needs revisiting. So a fixed plan is an ideal.
It has to be authentic. And the only way to keep those things alive is to keep revisiting it and to keep questioning it as well. Is it still relevant? Is it still working. And then, that’s really the only way forwards. So I think we’ve probably used them before, but what are those is that we do have some really good guides on our website. And hopefully that will break it down even further and you can actually have something in front of you and you can follow it and it would definitely get you started and thinking along the right lines.
As we said, so that was a whistle-stop tour of some planning and setting your strategy and what it should look like and hopefully some good tips in there. We will be moving on and looking at each of those different tactical activities and a little bit more detail.
We will talk about media relations on its own, and we will talk about internal communications and I suppose again, might need a whole series on its own on just that, crisis comms. All of those things we will talk about in a bit more detailed. This was hopefully just setting the scene a little bit for you, but thank you.
Very much for listening again. If you do, as always, we do want to hear your feedback. If you have any questions, if there’s anything you want us to cover, then please do get in touch with us. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website, check us out on the last socials. And we’ll see you again soon.