It’s tough these days. We are living in the ‘do more with less’ era of corporate communications. More with less money, less people and less time. To make things worse, those above us are imposing outcome- based metrics to make sure the organisation gets as much as possible out of the reduced resources they’re giving us.
Also, as a communications leader, gone are the days when you could point to the number of positive news stories, media trainings and publications your team has delivered as definitive proof of your impact. Now, no matter what size your organisation and team, it’s all about change, alignment and impact. Show me the money. Show me that you’ve changed minds and behaviour. While the ask may be greater, the resources available to deliver what is required are fewer.
Why a strategic mindset is a must have
What’s a communications professional to do? Perhaps the last thing on your mind is how to be more strategic in your work. But the reality is, unless you introduce a more strategic sensibility to your work, the new communications landscape will eat you for lunch. New types of stakeholders, social media engagement, reputational risks, lack of trust and saturated channels: having a strategic mindset isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must have.
"Perhaps the last thing on your mind is how to be more strategic in your work. But the reality is, unless you introduce a more strategic sensibility to your work, the new communications landscape will eat you for lunch."
You can keep on doing what you’re doing, but your competition, both inside and outside the building, will figure out a better, more strategic approach – and then you’ve tactically worked your way out of a job. The good news is that there are ways to be more strategic without necessarily being an expert in strategy.
Strategy, strategic: what’s the difference?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines strategy as “A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim’ and strategic as “Relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.” So, a strategy is one important outcome of a strategic process. While being strategic can deliver a fully-formed strategy, it can facilitate other positive outcomes. Being strategic is a structured way of approaching the challenges you face every day. It brings order and disciplined thinking to your challenges.
"Being strategic is a structured way of approaching the challenges you face every day."
So how do you implement a strategic approach? Adopting a campaign mentality is a good first step. I was trained in in Washington, DC, where everything is viewed through the prism of a political campaign. When you are in campaign mode, it’s all about winning or losing: there’s no prize for second place. Although the corporate world isn’t always that binary - successful organisations look for win-wins with their stakeholders - much of what we do in communications can take the form of a campaign, which opens doors to new ways of thinking about your work. If you think about a campaign as a planned set of activities carried out over time to achieve a goal, you are ready to start being more.
Five steps to be more strategic
Here is an approach to developing a campaign approach to challenges, large or small. The level of complexity will depend on the scale of the challenge: