Last month, we talked about writing your media strategy. We’re now at the last phase of writing a media plan — the tactics — and you’re probably only at page two in your deck. If you’ve written your objectives and strategies well, the tactics should come easily and will include the majority of what you will spend the next 3-12 months doing.
“Tactics” comes from the Greek work “taktikos,” which means “of or pertaining to arrangement.” Like the “strategy,” it also rooted in war terminology, as in “organizing an army.” In business, tactics describes how you’ll execute strategies; it’s a detailed plan to achieve an objective. A strategy tends to be abstract, where a tactic is concrete. It’s actionable, relatable, and attainable.
During most brainstorm sessions, people tend to think tactically. That’s because they need to visualize what they are thinking and because it’s easier to communicate to others. For example, if you’re recommending SEO (define) as a strategy, depending on your audience, you may not be able to communicate it effectively until you present it as a tactic, such as the results that come up when you search for something on Google. Regardless of your audience’s background, if they’ve ever used Google, they’ll be able to relate to this concept.
It’s not wrong to think tactically. In fact, you can compile your tactics and then take a macro view to see the commonalities and themes. This isn’t so different from what your high school English teacher taught you about writing an essay. Eventually, all the main thoughts in your essay must be expressed under one common theme, your thesis statement. In business, your thesis statement is your strategy and your main thoughts are your tactics.
There’s a strong temptation to write your tactics as strategies. Don’t. Your strategy may be dead on, but you may have the wrong tactics to employ it. Let’s say your strategy is to reach auto shoppers within the sites where prospects are researching competitive vehicles and you specify where and how you’re going to do this (e.g., Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, and AutoTrader.com) within your strategy. By doing so, it’s difficult to decipher whether it’s the strategy or the tactic that’s ineffective. By splitting strategies and tactics, you may learn that a competitive strategy is effective but only works on one particular site. In other words, keep the strategy but change the plan to achieve it.
In the same respect, I’ve seen planners optimize out of a site because it’s “ineffective,” only to discover with closer scrutiny that it wasn’t the site that was ineffective but the overall strategy. In another case, I’ve seen a site blacklisted for underperformance based on a direct-response metric, although the campaign goal and strategy were designed around brand consideration. It’s important that we diagnose and examine things in isolation, but it’s difficult to do that if items aren’t in their respective slots. Still, we should think of ourselves like physicians, exploring each independent element of someone’s body while keeping the overall person in mind.
When you’re presenting your plan, you’ll probably spend a great deal of time discussing tactics. Teams and budgets are usually designed around people enforcing tactics, so there may be many opinions and recommendations on the best ways to execute a plan. In most cases, there’s no right answer but a lot of trial and error. Remember, tactics always relate to a specific plan and, therefore, applying historical lessons should take this into account. Publishers who didn’t perform well for your last client may be the right fit in this new situation. In addition, if you’re a vendor being considered for a plan, make sure your capabilities are well suited for the goals and strategies of the plan you’re being considered for. Long-term performance and credibility are more important than short-term profits.
You’re now ready to write your media plan. Just remember the main components of your plan and that you’ll be expected to provide an assessment plan that will answer the following questions:
- Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
- What did you learn in the process?
- What are you going to do about it?
As long as you have all the components laid out well, it should be easy to determine the weakest link and figure how to make your plan work better for you in the future.