What Is Strategy?

Posted by Tracy Shea on July 23, 2013

People sometimes ask me to define “strategy.” It’s a word I probably say 20 times a day without really thinking about the impact or the relevance (two other words I say a lot).

We often go about our busy day with various strategies, such as, leaving work early enough to see the kids before bedtime or starting an exercise program in the spring so that your beach body is ready in time (full disclosure, I have not executed on the latter). Those are ongoing strategies, which require various tactics to achieve; yet they do not, in and of themselves, define “strategy.”

what is strategy

So, here is the definition of strategy: It is an organizational purpose, with a flow of activities that result in a desired outcome. Simple, right? Not really. These three elements are perhaps the hardest things to agree on, to execute against and to support throughout an organization. Without everyone “rowing in the same direction,” the strategy cannot succeed.

It is crucial for the intended action be executed with a matching pattern of behavior. In other words, strategy becomes the standard operating procedure, the way we do things and how we talk. In the social media realm, we would refer to this as delivering useful content, which has context, relevance to the identified audience.

A strategy is in fact comprised of several elements, not just one goal. This is where we often make mistakes. We take a goal (get in shape) and then we call exercise the strategy to achieve the goal. In fact, we haven’t gone deep enough. We need to consider the diet, our budget for healthy food and a gym membership. We also need to understand what is realistically achievable within a prescribed time. I will never again have a 32-inch waistline, but I can be more fit, increase my strength and stamina and control other aspects such as cholesterol and blood pressure.

So, just like a fitness strategy, your brand needs to ask some questions first. Is the strategy part of a plan, is it something that will be ongoing as part of a suite of behaviors, is it achievable in a meaningful way and what is actual success?

So let’s dissect your strategy for a moment. Is your goal to best the competition? Are you set up to repeat the behavior and integrate it into ongoing activities? Have you identified what position you want to attain and what you wish your brand to see itself as? These are all crucial to selecting a strategic imperative.

Now that we’ve uncovered larger questions, let’s go a bit further. In the past, public relations has been very proficient in creating tent pole activities that could put your brand on the map and in the paper. Today, however, you need more than noise to gain the traction and support you need to succeed. You need insights, you need data and you need to understand who you are looking for and how they might need you or want what your brand has to offer.

In parting, here are five considerations to help develop your strategy:

  • How fast do you need to get there?
  • Where will you focus your efforts?
  • How will we measure the effectiveness?
  • What are the economic ramifications?
  • What does success look like?

I hope this was a helpful post, or at the very least, gave you pause to get on that diet you’ve been thinking about. Please contact me here, or follow me on Twitter @Broadbandito.

Do you have a definition of success? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.