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February 23, 2010
Tactics Aren't Strategies

Public Relations Blogger recently ran a couple of refresher posts -- at least we hope they're refreshers for most practitioners -- on the difference between PR strategies and tactics. Important as it is, the subject can be confusing.  

Tactics aren't strategies. Most practitioners understand that. But we get so carried away on occasion that we may overlook the differences, and best intentions on behalf of clients can go awry.

Strategies are big-picture aims and objectives -- being clear on what needs to be accomplished and why. Tactics are how you get there. (This is our definition. Some folks may say aims and objectives are separate from, and even higher, than strategies, but we think they're inextricably wrapped together.) 

There's a bit of confusion, even, inPR Blogger's approach.

According to Webster's dictionary:

Strategy: (noun) a: a careful plan or method: a clever stratagem b: the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal. 

Tactic: (noun) a device for accomplishing an end. 

We don't know if Webster had any PR credentials, but the "strategy" definition seems to undersell the importance of being clear, not just clever, about an objective in formulating strategy. 

Strategy comes first, and an objective is slow to change, if it ever does. (When we were in nuclear power, 15-20 years ago, the objective was safety; we trust that hasn't changed.)

Tactics can change as means, insights, and evaluation of results change. 

Although it's sometimes easy to do, don't confuse the two, 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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