A lot of folks struggle to understand the difference. I’ve seen many a PR pro, and not just newbies, flummoxed when asked to explain the process.

PR Goals

Say you’re a consumer company that wants a public relations agency to “move the needle” on sales for your new line of scented hair care products (with notes of cotton candy, cinnamon, cherry, and the like). Some PR goals might be:

  • Gain inclusion in X stories in top tier consumer publications discussing trendy/innovative hair care products (Seventeen, Cosmo, etc)
  • Drive X number of people to the website selling the product (access to the client’s analytics is key here)
  • Secure X top tier fashion/lifestyle bloggers to write about the products
  • Increase Facebook likes and Twitter followers & retweets by X

PR Strategy

Okay, so now we have some goals. What’s the strategy here? There are a number of different ways to come at this, but strategy tends to encompass a group of actions aimed at achieving the previously defined goals.

  • For the example we’re using, one strategy could be to implement a celebrity endorsement program (with folks like Miley Cyrus, Sarah Hyland, etc.) as the hook to gain coverage across media channels. If “current” celebs are known to be rocking a hot new product, PR work gets a whole lot simpler.
  • Obviously most budgets aren’t sufficient for this kind of approach, so another strategy might be to position – and pitch – the products as “Not Safe For Work,” which suggests that the fragrances are irresistible and therefore potentially scandalous. Or maybe this stuff is “for single women only.” You get the idea, and a solid brainstorming session with a good PR firm should yield numerous options for consideration.

PR Tactics

A lot of people confuse strategy for tactics, but tactics are really just the strategy on wheels.

Generic tactics in this case might be to:

  • “Verticalize” pitching platforms to tailor specific messages to specific audiences.
  • Create edgy 30-second videos of guys acting stupid around women wearing the scented hair gel; sniff tests in which guys prefer the smell of the hair gel over bacon; a child asking dad to buy a woman’s hair instead of the cotton candy at the circus; etc.
  • Product give-aways to bloggers
  • Facebook and twitter contesting
  • Stage “Hair product challenges” in key metros
  • Celebrity video pitches personalized to top tier writers at fashion mags
  • Develop a contest where consumers vote on the next new scent for the hair care products
  • Etc.
Clearly, if the strategy was to use the Not Safe For Work approach, the tactics would be a bit more risqué. If you employed the “for single women only” approach, you might have tactics involving married women who are annoyed at all the attention the single women were getting.

Does this help explain the difference between goals, strategies and tactics? Hope so.

If not, I’ll make it crystal clear with a crass example:

A gold-digging woman has the following goal: get rich at any cost.

Strategy: Attend many events where the elite single men are available and approachable.

Tactics: Have interesting stories to tell, dress semi-provocatively, flirt without appearing untoward, learn who will be in attendance and read their back stories, find out who she knows in common with her target men, ask mutual friends for introductions, etc.

Get it now?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you find this useful.

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