It is easy to think that once you have set your strategy, that a button is flicked and that the focus switches to execution/implementation. But this is rarely the case. Think about it – if you work in an agency, it is unlikely that your original pitch idea will be completely aligned with the work that is actually released for a client. And if you are client side, chances are that your expectations will transform (and be transformed) as the project is sold-in to your business sponsors and stakeholders. The are always, always, competing priorities – and what may appear to be strategically necessary one day will be out of favour the next. This is frustrating, time consuming and expensive for all involved.
The opportunity, however, is to focus on a flexible approach to strategy – and this means using strategy not as a way of aligning messaging or building a campaign or a brand. It means using strategy to drive decisions.
How does this work?
As you build your continuous digital strategy, it is important to establish a “strategic guiding principle”. This should be a clearly articulated strategic direction that can be applied to any business challenge at any step in the process. It should encapsulate what you do and why and it should be “big picture” enough to apply to apply to the decisions of your executives and granular enough to provide guidance for the rest of your organisation. By way of example, the strategic guiding principle for General Electric was, for years “be number one or number two in any industry, or get out”. Such a principle provides a practical, outcome oriented, but simple framework for strategic decision making that can be used at all levels, from executives determining whether an acquisition should be completed to team leaders planning the skills development of their teams.
When it comes to digital and social media, I have taken a leaf out of the GE’s book. I often apply a repeatable guiding principle that can be shared with my project sponsors, development and creative teams – share the message, own the destination. This strategic guiding principle is used to help guide the answers to the many questions that arise during a project’s lifecycle. By simply asking whether the choices being made contribute to (or detract from) this strategic principle, we are all able to work autonomously yet achieve a level of coherence throughout the project. It also means we are able to accelerate the process of refining the strategy as we cycle through the components.
And one of the best parts of this approach is that it allows all participants to feel a sense of ownership in the strategy. And by bringing that very human sense of responsibility to your project, you lay the foundations for success.