A lot of folks struggle to understand the difference. I’ve seen many a PR pro, and not just newbies, flummoxed when asked to explain the process.
Say you’re a consumer company that wants a public relations agency to “move the needle” on sales for your new line of scented hair care products (with notes of cotton candy, cinnamon, cherry, and the like).
Some PR goals might be:
- Gain inclusion in X stories in top tier consumer publications discussing trendy/innovative hair care products (Marie Clare, Vogue etc)
- Drive X number of people to the website selling the product
- Secure X top tier fashion/lifestyle bloggers to write about the products
- Increase Facebook likes and Twitter followers & retweets by X
Okay, so now we have some goals. What’s the strategy here? There are a number of different ways to come at this, but strategy tends to encompass a group of actions aimed at achieving the previously defined goals.
- For the example we’re using, one strategy could be to implement a celebrity endorsement program (with folks like Miley Cyrus, Sarah Hyland, etc.) as the hook to gain coverage across media channels. If “current” celebs are known to be rocking a hot new product, PR work gets a whole lot simpler.
- Obviously most budgets aren’t sufficient for this kind of approach, so another strategy would be to find an interesting angle in which to position and pitch this product. Maybe the company gives a certain percentage of sales to a charity, or the ingredients are all-natural. Whatever the case may be, the point is to find a feature of the product that makes it newsworthy.
A lot of people confuse strategy for tactics, but tactics are really just the strategy on wheels.
Generic tactics in this case might be to:
- “Verticalize” pitching platforms to tailor specific messages to specific audiences.
- Product give-aways to bloggers
- Facebook and twitter contesting
- Stage “Hair product challenges” in key metros
- Celebrity video pitches personalized to top tier writers at fashion mags
- Develop a contest where consumers vote on the next new scent for the hair care products.
Does this help explain the difference between goals, strategies and tactics? Hope so.
If not, here's another example:
Goal: Eat only food that you personally grow.
Strategy: Research the fruits and vegetables that can grow in your area, map out the area of your yard or house that will be your garden area, and schedule your planting and harvesting so you have food year-round.
Tactics: Travel to the store, buy seed and supplies, plant your crops and wait to harvest. Have your veggies and eat them, too.
Once you can clearly differentiate your goals from strategy and tactics, you will find it easier to manage and measure your PR efforts.