Strategic Thinking: How It Will Help Your PR
“Be strategic, or be gone,” says strategic thinking guru Rich Horwath. And Rich knows. Rich advises Fortune 500 companies; is a professor of strategy at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management; has been interviewed by a myriad of press for his expertise on strategic thinking; and is currently ranked the #1 speaker on strategy by the Society of Healthcare Strategy and by the Garden State Society for Human Resource Management.
Rich conducted proprietary research with 154 different companies, showing that only 3 out of every 10 managers are highly strategic. The results are detailed in his book, Deep Dive. Of the survey Rich did with 139 companies on “How strategic is your organization?”, the average score was 40% (an “F”). This means there is a big difference between using the word “strategic” and actually knowing what it means.
This is evident to me in my PR profession. More than ever, our firm receives phone calls and emails (almost weekly) from potential clients who are disappointed with their previous PR firm and the results that firm produced (or more accurately, didn’t produce). This makes me wonder:
- Did the firm understand the client’s current situation (Context)
- Did they generate new ideas (Insight)
- Did they separate the client from the marketplace “noise” (Competitive Advantage)
- Determine the benefits/costs of the offerings (Value)
- Decide where to focus capital, talent and time (Resource Allocation)
- Visually capture the essence of the business issues (Modeling)
- Create new value for customers (Innovation)
- Make sure the client had well-developed mission, vision, and values (Purpose)
- Did they possess the ability to improvise, adapt and excel through adversity (Mental Agility)
- Was there a well-thought out strategy?
Rich says the most common reason why organizations turn out strategic plans that don’t move the needle (including PR firms) is the belief that strategic thinking and strategic planning are the same thing. “Strategic thinking is the generation of insights about a business, while strategic planning takes those insights and transforms them into an action plan to achieve. Strategy development without the ‘thinking’ phase is akin to an organizational lobotomy,” states Horwath.
Strategic thinking gives you the ability to achieve competitive advantage (i.e. ways to beat your competition). In PR, this is simply the way your brand/message is positioned to consumers that will make them choose you over your competition. The challenge is if people don’t hear about your brand/message, you have no competitive advantage, at least not in the PR realm.
I question how many PR firms think strategically for their clients. If they did, they’d have better results. If not, their competition gets the client’s business. As Rich says, “be strategic, or be gone”.