Tip Sheet: Evolving Tacticians Into Strategists

PR execs already know that those who matter most to them, from clients to senior executives, are not simply looking for a PR person. They need a valued business advisor -- a strategist. The question we face today is not if our industry needs to undergo this transformation to strategist, it's how to do it. And importantly, how do we teach the younger generation to become strategists? PR pros must move beyond the "what" to the "so what," and ultimately to "now what." When this shift occurs, a PR person transforms into a strategist. So, how does this transformation happen? What changes need to occur in your organization in order to teach your staff to be strategists? First, let's look at the three levels of communication impact. *Three Levels of Communication Impact - What, So What and Now What Level One: "What?" As a rule, most PR people were originally trained as journalists, not strategists. We pride ourselves on accurate communication and attention to detail through careful observation and questions. We excel at effectively reporting the "what"--the situation at hand. For example, when ABC Company is acquired, we are excellent at communicating the facts about the situation to all of our key audiences, such as employees, investors and the media. Our mistake, however, is that we too often don't move beyond reporting the "what" to key audiences into telling them the "so what." Level Two: "So What?" What's in it for me? This question must be burned into the minds of all PR execs in order to move beyond the "what." At the second level of communication impact, PR professionals must put themselves in the shoes of their audience and address questions such as: What's the impact of this situation on me? What does this really mean? How is this going to change things for the short and long term? Level Three: "Now What?" This is what really matters --changing behavior. As an industry, we are frequently challenged at this level of communication impact -- the "now what." This is what executives care about. In fact, it's the only thing they care about. We must help achieve real business goals, not just generate awareness and understanding. We must always focus on delivering effective strategies and results that are simple, direct, and designed to achieve real business goals. Now you know where your organization needs to evolve. Next, let's look at three steps you can share throughout your organization to achieve this mind shift. *Three Steps to Develop a Strategic Mind 1. Identify the Business Issue: Before you can set objectives or create a program for an initiative, it is essential to understand the business issue at hand. Sit down with your executives or clients and listen to what they need to achieve. They don't really care about PR; they care about how our work helps them achieve their goals. Is their goal a reduction in employee turnover? Sales of a new product? 2. Begin With the End in Mind: After identifying the business issue, you will be in a position to begin your communication planning with the end in mind. Starting with the business issue, walk through the three levels of communication to develop your integrated strategy. All of your strategies and tactics must be focused on level three--"now what?" Run all of your strategies through the filter of how they will help your organization to achieve its business goals. 3. Ask Great Questions to Develop Great Strategies: Frank Kingdon, an English botanist and explorer, said, "Questions are the creative acts of intelligence." This sentiment rings true as you develop your communications strategy. Ask questions in order to gain the data, or facts, you need. However, don't stop with only the data. How will you apply the data in order to transform it to knowledge, the application of facts, for your key audiences? As you work to integrate this teaching throughout your organization, remain focused on the "now what." It's what the people who matter most to you care about; and it's the key to transforming the individuals in your organization from PR people into strategists. CONTACT: Eric Morgenstern is president and CEO of Morningstar Communications, and a member of PRSA's Counselors Academy. He can be reached at emorgenstern@morningstarcomm.com.

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