North America

USA - New York

New York
New York
275 Seventh Ave, Suite 706
New York, NY 10001
P: +1.646.722.3041
newyork@prime-research.com

USA - Detroit/ Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor / Detroit
Ann Arbor/ Detroit
309 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
+1 734 913 0348
annarbor@prime-research.com

Europe

Germany

Frankfurt / Mainz
Kaiserstrasse 22-24
55116 Mainz
+49 6131 2180 0
mainz@prime-research.com

United Kingdom

Oxford
58 St. Aldates
Oxford, OX1 1ST
+44 1865 324 911
oxford@prime-research.com

Switzerland

Zurich
Badenerstraße 549
8048 Zurich
+41 43 210 97 46
zurich@prime-research.com

South America

Brazil

Sao Paulo
Av. Roque Petroni Júnior, 1089
São Paulo, SP Brasil – 04707-900
+55 11 3033 5858
saopaulo@prime-research.com

Asia Pacific

China

Shanghai
Rm.306, Bldg. 2
Lujiazui Software Park No. 100, Lane 91, E'shan Rd. Pudong Shanghai 200127, China
+86 21 6859 2099
shanghai@prime-research.com

India

Office no. 3, 14th floor German Center
Building No. 9B -DLF Cyber City
Phase-III Gurgaon - INDIA
+91 124 463 6045
newdelhi@prime-research.com

Strategy and Research

Strategy and Tactics: Finding a Balance through Research

Posted On March 07, 2017

It’s a curious thing how the overwhelming majority of public relations agencies and practitioners identify as “strategists.” Here’s the problem: if everyone is a strategist, how does anything get done? The natural inclination seems to be that “tactics are subordinate to strategy.” True, public relations is much more than just press conferences, interviews and publicity but it’s important to remember that the only way to accomplish our PR and business objectives is to bring strategy to life through tactical execution. As such, strategy and tactics are interrelated and equally essential for success.

Communications research provides a foundation for the entire public relations process from landscape assessment to objective-setting to strategy development to tactical creativity and performance evaluation. And since the process is cyclical rather than sequential, it’s important to learn and refine over time. To focus on how research ensures a balance between strategy and tactics, let’s define the terms:

  • Strategies are a foundation for action. They focus on audience identification and messaging. As such, strategies are longer-term with only infrequent changes.
  • Tactics are shorter-term bursts of activity directing strategic messaging to targeting audiences meant to trigger a positive response

For public relations strategy development, research helps to identify and qualify potential targets as those most – and least – receptive to your message based on demographics, lifestyles, product/service preferences and communication preferences. Once research specifies the optimal audience, research allows the communicator to test messages to identify these themes which are most compelling and most credible when coming from your company or brand. Once established, strategies offer positive differentiation and tend to endure for extended periods of time, even years.

The research process for public relations tactics provide direction and insurance for creative endeavors. A tactic delivers your strategic messages to the audiences most likely to respond affirmatively. Research helps to identify the channels – traditional and social media sources, spokespeople, influencers, events, partners, causes and more — through which your messages can be delivered to your target audience in ways that are most involving and trustworthy. Tactical research is time-based and should be updated regularly to identify which communications vehicles offer the greatest likelihood for success at a given moment.

The need for a balanced approach to strategy and tactics extends well beyond communication to affect every aspect of yours and every purposeful organization, all of which share a common resolve to achieve equilibrium. For public relations, consider these six recommendations:

  1. Research-based PR objectives come before strategy or tactics. To succeed, you must know the outcome you seek to accomplish
  2. PR research optimizes efficiency and reduces risk by pre-testing strategy and tactics before resources are allocated
  3. Strategy research ensures tactical alignment. Tactics safeguards the strategy. When combined, strategy and tactics improve the organization as well as the function
  4. Research for strategies and tactics reflects the preferences of external audiences as well as internal audiences. Consider the impact within and throughout the organization and especially among those executives who fund and evaluate PR performance
  5. Research grounds the natural desire for purely creative activation based on what’s “edgy,” “disruptive” and “cutting edge.” Be all these things but make the most of your creativity by designing programs which support the strategy and contribute to achieving or surpassing your objectives
  6. Evaluate performance of strategy and tactics to ensure they remain relevant and to uncover opportunities for continuous improvement over time, versus objectives and against the competition

One can achieve strategic and tactical success without research but it’s a risky approach. Communication acumen and category expertise matter greatly but they only go so far. Research provides an enormous advantage in pretesting for success, eliminating risk and improving efficiency to ensure positive differentiation and meaningful business results.

About the Author

Mark Weiner is the Chief Executive Officer of PRIME Research, an international research-based communications consultancy working with many of the world’s most admired companies and brands. weiner@prime-research.com.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone
Share this to social

You may also be interested in

Aligning Content Analysis with Journalism: A Better Path to Public Relations Success

Jennifer Sanchis, PRIME Research UK Before I conducted Public Relations research and evaluation, I worked in Paris for national news and specialised media outlets as a freelance journalist. Since my day-to-day work consisted of collecting, checking, compiling and commenting on facts, I found that Research occupied most of my time and that Public Relations professionals rarely anticipated my needs as a journalist. When I attended press conferences or events, I was handed generic booklets and impersonal press releases. I rarely used this information, as the content they supplied was irrelevant to what my audience actually wanted to read. In my experience, Public Relations professionals understand the importance of earned media to achieve their goals, which most of the time means raising ...

Learn more

How to Maximize the Value of Forward-Looking PR Measurement

by Jim Simon In October, 2017, John Gilfeather, president of John Gilfeather & Associates, weighed in on the pages of PR News about the difficulties PR agencies and in-house departments face in attempting to measure the effectiveness of their efforts (“Mobster”). In his essay, Gilfeather states most PR pros cannot honestly cite analytics/big data as a core skillset. If they seek to hire a research partner to do the job, they can be confused by the offerings of a plethora of measurement firms all claiming to be superior. There are, of course, budget constraints. For some there may also be a sense of trepidation, i.e. “We may find out we’re not doing as well as we thought.” Allyson Hugley, President of Measurement and Analytics for Weber Shandwick, also expanded upon the pain points of PR ...

Learn more

8 Star Wars Lessons About Communication Measurement

by Jesper Andersen I have always been a great Star Wars fan. Waiting impatiently for the upcoming premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi this week, I was inspired to write this post about 8 important lessons about communication measurement that we can learn from the Star Wars storyline. 1. Don’t be seduced by the Dark Side of the Force (AVE’s) Darth Vader’s seduction by the Dark Side of the Force, and how he and Emperor Palpatine also try to turn Luke Skywalker, is a central theme in Star Wars. Whereas the Light requires patience and discipline to master, the Dark Side lures us with promises of quick and easy power. In the world of communications measurement, ‘vanity metrics’ are the Dark Side and none more so than Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). They will try to seduce you with big ...

Learn more