Why is strategic thinking important in PR and how do you become more strategic in your thinking?
What is strategic thinking?
Thinking strategically takes practice. Tactics are the ways in which you achieve specific goals, whereas thinking strategically is about looking at the bigger picture – the over-arching vision and focus of your company or that of your clients – and thinking about how you can align your goals to it.
Strategic thinking is about understanding your audience and your stakeholders, so that your goals have a measurable impact on the business. It’s about evaluating internal and external trends, analysing data, problem solving and thinking commercially.
Develop strategic thinking
In order to develop strategic thinking, the focus needs to shift from the output to the why. It’s important to have a clearly defined focus, so that media coverage is not being sought just for the sake of getting the company named in the media.
Strategic thinking in PR is about doing the right things in the right way. Why are you seeking media coverage? What impact will it have? How will people think or feel as a result? What will people do as a result?
Paul J. H. Schoemaker, is an academic, author, and an expert in the fields of strategic management and decision making. He broke strategic thinking down to six habits:
- Think critically
Let’s take a look at each of these points in relation to being a strategic thinker in PR:
Watch the trends, both internally and externally. Internally, have there been any new hires or departures of key employees across the company? What is employee engagement like? Has a new product or service been introduced? Have stakeholder priorities changed? What impact will any of these changes have on your PR goals? What can you do to mitigate the impact of these changes?
Monitoring trends outside the organisation is also important, so pay attention to the economic signals. For example, the cost-of-living crisis. How will that impact upon any given PR plans? Are your campaign messages sympathetic to what is happening regionally, nationally, or globally? Will the cost-of-living crisis change the way something is received? Understand how national and global changes in the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental sectors can change your carefully crafted plans, then anticipate how all of this could affect your business or your clients’ businesses.
Stop taking things at face value! It’s okay to slow down and question what we are looking at (or hearing). Analyse data from reliable and relevant sources, speak to your connections, look at your clients’ vision, values, and objectives.
Don’t rush to find a solution. It’s easy to get caught up in deadlines and to worry about achieving media coverage, but it’s more important to make sure you are doing the right things in the right way!
Look for patterns – similarities and differences – in the data and encourage your colleagues and clients to do the same. Question prevailing assumptions and interpret how internal and external forces will change what you’re doing.
This may seem at odds with the previous point, but don’t overanalyse things and become paralysed into inaction. To be a PR strategic thinker, you need to be decisive, efficient, and finished!
Listen. Take onboard what other people are saying, then assess the risks by bringing tough issues out into the conversation. Only then, will you be able to figure out where the balance is, both internally and externally.
To be a PR strategic thinker, you need to continue learning – from other PR professionals, from your colleagues and even from your mistakes.
Want to talk strategy?
Our team of experts are on hand to help guide you through the process – get in touch to see how we can support your business.