In trying to explain, it’s a bit of a challenge. So, please reference Effective Public Relations by Cutlip and Center (the same, hopefully updated text book I used in college) for their professorial approach to teaching this distinction. @Greggvm (he’s a 3-G kind of guy) suggests strategies drive tactics, and I agree.
When writing a public relations proposal, spend the longest time developing objectives and strategies. Once you nail these, the tactics cascade in support of strategies. Back in the not-too-distant day when I worked in Chicago at Ketchum/Corporate Technology Communications under the tutelage of Paul Rand, current president of Zocalo Group in Chicago and also president of Word of Mouth Marketing Association, our account team sat for hours arguing the difference between objectives and strategies.
Here are simple guidelines from my professional point of view…if you have another approach, please share!
- Business goals are required in a proposal to align communications strategy.
- Program objectives are broadly stated i.e. “Increase market position 20 percent by 2012,” or “Decrease negative online reputation by 10 percent for product X.” Include three to four objectives, not more.
- Strategies support objectives, and remain somewhat vague, for example, “Launch proactive integrated communications campaign.” Strategies complement objectives; feature five to six strategies to support the larger goal.
- Program elements (or tactics) follow; strategies drive tactics. Highlight tactics after providing a list of target audiences.
Once a proposal is approved, a more tactical plan with timeline follows. It’s easy to forget there ever was a plan, but re-visit the original plan and stay the course. This also helps reduce scope creep, and you agency practitioners will know exactly what is meant by that!