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Thinking strategically will increase your value

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com

Strategy deals with the long-term direction of an organization, and the decisions on actions and resources that are needed.

Strategic thinking is the process that management uses to set direction and articulate their vision; management use the opinions, judgments, even feelings of themselves and stakeholders in relation to the organizational environment.

Strategic planning is not strategic thinking. Strategic planning is largely an extrapolation from the past, while strategic thinking should drive strategic planning, which converts the thinking into action.

Strategic thinking produces a framework for the strategic and operational plans, and through the resulting strategy, attempts to determine what the organization should look like in the future. Strategic thinking is problem solving in unstructured situations. Strategy is generated by experience, insight, knowledge, leadership, management, observation, and recognition, among other things.

Strategic thinking is about synthesis. It involves intuition and creativity. Study after study has shown that the most effective managers rely on some of the softest forms of information, including gossip, hearsay, and various other intangible scraps of information.

Then why engage in strategic planning?

The most obvious reason is for coordination, to ensure that everyone in the organization pulls in the same direction … Plans can also be used to gain the tangible as well as moral support of influential outsiders. Written plans inform financiers, suppliers, government agencies and others about the intentions of the organization so that these groups can help it achieve its plans.

How can you be strategic?

The first thing you can do it to review your organization’s vision, mission and goals to identify the organization’s top priorities. Then relate every communication project or program to one or more of the organizational goals.

This is important. You should document in every PR plan and report exactly which goal or goals it supports. Then if anyone ever queries the purpose of any PR activity you can point to the goal it relates to.

Why use a strategic approach?

If a manager or client asks you to write a brochure, media release etc with no discussion about its strategic purpose, your alarm bells should be ringing. What’s the point of doing something tactical if it doesn’t create greater value for the organization?

Many inexperienced communicators are pressured by managers or clients into doing tasks that have little strategic use. They are just short-term fixes. But astute management thinkers, led by the legendary Peter Drucker, have observed that doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right. Drucker apparently said there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently something that should not be done at all.

Sooner or later, your value will be questioned if all you do is the low level stuff or if you do only what you are told by people who don’t understand communication. But how can you turn the conversation to a strategic approach?

In speaking with or meeting with the other person or committee, you can ask some vital questions that add value to the task in question and increase the respect shown to you. These are some of those key questions:

The questions to ask

  1. ‘How does the goal/objective of this activity connect to our business goals?’
  2. ‘What value will result to the business if we achieve the goal of this activity?’
  3. ‘What is important to our stakeholders?’
  4. ‘What do we want them to do, think and feel as a result of this action?’
  5. ‘What types of messages will it take to get them to do that?’
  6. ‘Can we integrate this with another action for better leverage?’

Be positive with the other person

In trying to move other people to take a more strategic approach, you should not disagree head-on with them to put your own unsupported view because this will backfire on you. Try to think of various tactful ways you can accomplish this. Here are some ideas for making positive comments that are respectful to the other person or group:

  • ‘This [alternative] approach could really position you well.’
  • ‘If we did it that way, it may make it easier to go to the next steps.’
  • ‘The ROI for this approach could be useful to use in other projects.’
  • First offer (genuine) praise and credit to the other person for their work on the project.
  • Pick up on the best aspects of their thinking.
  • Redirect their flawed thinking to another angle.
  • Be flexible in your thinking – give ground on small points if necessary but stay firm on the big points.
  • How to deliver contrary opinions
  • If you are pointing out problems, make your points clear; don’t talk around in circles.
  • Support your case with suitable facts, background information and logic.
  • Use case studies and input from other industry and professional sources.
  • Offer alternatives to the other person’s point; don’t just contradict them.
  • Offer your ongoing support – you are a team.

Sample refocusing

An example of how you could redirect someone from a low-level approach to a more strategic and effective approach is to ask questions like:

“How will a single brochure/media release generate innovation [productivity, change management, new product launches, etc], in accordance with our organizational goals? Maybe we should look to create a more coordinated campaign that reinforces the message in several ways.”

By being prepared to get out of your comfort zone and take a more strategic approach with managers and clients you will find yourself becoming much more effective in your career.

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website, www.cuttingedgepr.com, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.

 

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