5 Traits that put the ‘Strategic’ into Strategic Communication

We all know that, in this world of virtually limitless communication and content aggregation, opportunities for businesses and individuals to speak and be heard abound.

But increasingly, businesses small and large have to be strategic about the ways in which they communicate in order to take advantage of these plentiful opportunities, and to avoid missing the tide or falling behind competitors.

Strategic Communication is what’s required.

In order to adequately convey their value and hear their customers, businesses must pull all the strands of their corporate communication into one strategy that aligns with the goals of the business.

So, what differentiates Strategic Communication from Communication?

What puts the Strategic into Strategic Communication?

1. Coordination

“Marketing isn’t magic. There’s a science to it.” Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist, Hubspot

Strategic Communication is not marketing, branding, design, public relations, business, advertising, journalism, psychology, sociology or social / mass communication. Strategic Communication uses each one of these disciplines to achieve a stated goal.

It is the art and science of turning stated business goals into communication goals, and then laying out a master plan for how every distribution channel can be used to its greatest effect to achieve those goals.

Someone who understands the business implicitly, must be, for want a better term, a master puppeteer.

2. Proactive (not reactive)

“Money follows passion. Not the other way round.” David Siteman Garland, host of Rise to the Top

Proactive communication is going out and making business goals happen. This requires learning and listening, coordination, diligence, measurement, and constant revision. Tom Kelleher, chair of the School of Communications at the University of Hawaii, says that the opposite of strategic communications is “seat of the pants” communications.

Pushing out endless brochures and corporate messages can feel productive, because it can be hard work, but without the Coordination element incorporated, that effort can be misguided and unhelpful. It can even be destructive.

3. Business goal based

Shayna Englin teaches public relations and corporate communications at Georgetown University. She says “being strategic means communicating the best message, through the right channels, measured against well-considered organizational and communications-specific goals. It’s the difference between doing communications stuff, and doing the right communications stuff.”

Strategic Communications teams cannot and should not sit separately to the business.

The coordinated Communications Strategy must be founded on, driven by, exist because of, the business’s goals. The business goals must be specific and measurable, containing numbers: create x number of leads, acquire y new clients, improve pitch success rate from x to y.

Those responsible in the business for delivering those goals should be calling on the Strategic Communications team to make it happen; the Communications Strategy must centre on achievement of those goals, employing all distribution channels available to them to make them happen.

With this commitment comes responsibility. Communication is about communicating the firm’s value. Strategic Communication is about taking responsibility for delivering business goals in a measurable way, through effective communication.

4. Frames the debate

“Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog and pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.” The Cluetrain Manifesto

Strategic Communication isn’t just about using all existing distribution and conversation channels to achieve business goals. It’s also about framing the debate: going out and starting conversations that help the organisation talk about topics it wants to talk about; creating dialogues; stimulating debate.

It’s also about using the right language and the right tone to frame the debate and create the perceptions necessary to the strategy.

5. Measurement and Reflection

“By publishing content that shows buyers you understand their problems and can show them how to solve them, you build credibility.” Ardath Albee, author of EMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale

People change, problems change, needs change. Strategic Communications must include constant measurement and reflection. Why? Because the world of strategic communications is constantly shifting. According to Maryville University, “to be successful in this evolving field, you need to do more than keep up, you need to analyze current trends and anticipate what comes next.


Are the channels we’re using actually helping us achieve our business goals? Can we report success? Are we getting the right message across to the right people? Are we responding to their needs in a way that appeals to them?

Constant reflection and subsequent adaptation are a vital part of being Strategic. Don’t dwell on time lost; adapt and change the strategy, adjust the sails.

Full blog available at: www.mackenzienordal.blogspot.com

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