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In Social, Do You Choose Strategy or Tactics first?

Photo courtesy of Uno Brick via flickr

This article is written by Julie Geller, director of marketing & social media, Cision Canada.

There’s an ongoing debate between social media practitioners and clients about the proposal process: When’s the best time to introduce tactics? Some professionals tell clients that strategy must come far before tactics. Clients, on the other hand, especially those new to the social realm, are mesmerized by tactics and social tools and want to know immediately how they will be used.

Strategy sums up a Utopian view of the campaign. It lets you place the big idea in a tidy box. The tactics, on the other hand, bring your ideas to life.

Think of it like gardening. At the outset, you need to clarify your goals. Are you gardening for food? Is it purely ornamental? Is your garden in full sun or mixed with shade? What do you want your garden to look like in a year? These are strategic considerations about objectives, research and plans. With a strategy in place, the tactical decisions, such as design, plant varieties, and how or when to enrich the soil, naturally fall into place.

We all want to win the business and get to the big client brainstorming session. When tactics precede strategy, however, you risk missing the campaign goal.

In the end, it’s a balancing act. Here are five tips that will help you manage your delivery of the all-important strategy, while keeping clients engaged.

  1. Get to the Good Stuff
    Present the strategy using sketches, photography, video and audio. Explain the big picture in as few words as possible and bring the strategy to life with examples that encourage creative conversation. It’s okay to mention tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, as clients want to hear tactical basics. Just be sure to present a clear rationale of how the tools fit your long-term goals.
  2. Be Creative. Be Collaborative
    Create a collaborative activity. If your clients are savvy about the social space, take 15 minutes and have them put together a Pinterest board (tactic) in support of the big picture (strategy). By playing with the strategy, your client will understand its benefits and how it can engage a community.
  3. Listen and Read Non-Verbal Behaviour
    Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues. Know, and acknowledge, when your audience is not enthusiastic. Ask yourself if the client’s feedback is right. Don’t try to sell an idea that isn’t getting a buy-in. It’s not a bad thing to hear constructive criticism. Think on your feet, and riff off the critique in a way that strengthens the strategy. When you’re responsive to client concerns, they’ll be more enthusiastic about the overall plan.
  4. Seeing Is Believing
    Do your research and prep in advance. Bookmark a handful of competitor sites or influencers to incorporate into your plan. Don’t assume that your clients have the 411 on the competitive social space. They will need to see good and bad examples from their peer group. Bookend your presentation with samples that reinforce how and why you think the approach will work for the brand.
  5. Critique It
    After your presentation, open up the floor and involve clients in an on-the-spot critique. Hand out sticky notes for clients to jot down their favorite tactic and the one that most concerns them. The conversation will help refine the strategy. You’ll leave with the client’s approval or time to adjust your proposal to meet expectations.

An approach that integrates strategy and tactics will ultimately save time, improve your client relationship and make the overall process more pleasant for everyone.

This post originally appeared on Canadian Public Relations Society.

About Lisa Denten

Lisa Denten is the Social Media Manager of Cision U.S., where she leads social strategy, coordinates the blog editorial calendar and manages public relations campaigns. She regularly hosts Cision webinars, was chosen as a #FollowFriday guest on industry blog Spin Sucks, and has spoken on panels for Inbound Marketing Summit and Publicity Club of Chicago. She worked in the newspaper industry before joining Cision in 2008. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter at @lisaml15.

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