Strategic Comms, #41: Using a Communications Strategy Map

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(This is the 41st in a continuing series on strategic communications. Click here for earlier segments)

By Owen Eagan, The Saint Consulting Group

So, do you have a communications strategy?  Are you sure?  I only ask because even the best strategists have to ask themselves this question from time to time.  For example, if you said yes because one of your strategies is to build thought leadership through social media, you would be wrong.  Building thought leadership would be your objective and the use of social media would be one of your tactics.

However, the good news is that you already have an objective and every strategy begins with an objective.  In fact, the process for developing your communications strategy is similar to the one used for your business strategy.  That is, after you’ve identified your objective you simply need to identify your purpose, strategy, tactics and goals.  Developing your business strategy is more complicated than that but there are parallels.

First, your objective can be defined as what you are trying to achieve.  Using the business strategy analogy, your objective is comparable to your company’s vision, or what James Collins and Jerry Porras call your BHAG (pronounced bee-hag) – your Big, Hairy Audacious Goal.  For instance, Google’s vision is “To build a perfect search engine.”

Your purpose involves what you need to do in order achieve your objective.  Again, if you were developing your company’s strategy, your purpose would be comparable to your company’s mission or core purpose.  To illustrate, Google’s mission is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Next, you’ll need to develop your strategy.  As Jack Welch says, “Strategy means making clear-cut choices about how to compete.”  So critical is your strategy that Joel Ross and Michael Kami state, “Without a strategy an organization is like a ship without a rudder.”  Subsequently, your tactics are the methods you will use to implement your strategy.  And, lastly, your goals need to include benchmarks for measuring your results.

Using our earlier example, let’s assume our objective is building our company’s brand through thought leadership.  Next, our purpose would be targeting specific audiences with relevant content.  So, now that we’ve defined our objective and purpose, we need to decide how we’re going to compete.

One strategy could consist of utilizing one of your company’s subject matter experts to host educational events through multi-media channels for current and prospective clients.  Once we’ve identified a strategy, we can choose the methods we want to use to reach our goals.  These methods or tactics could include a webinar on a topical issue that our clients and prospective clients have been trying to navigate.

These are exercises that we go through internally to help crystalize our thinking on strategy issues.  In fact, the example above was one that was offered by Seth Cargiuolo, our Chief Knowledge Officer, as part of his invaluable feedback to a framework I developed to help make these decisions (see www.carge77.com for more about Seth).

This framework is called the Communications Strategy Map and is presented below in Exhibit 1.  It is our hope that this model will help you develop your communications strategy and execute it effectively.

Exhibit 1

 © 2011 The Saint Consulting Group

Owen Eagan is a Senior Consultant for Saint Consulting, an international management consulting firm specializing in land use politics.  He is also an adjunct faculty member at Emerson College, the nation’s only four-year institution dedicated exclusively to communication and the performing arts. Email Eagan@tscg.biz

 

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