Making the Most of a Strategic Approach

Sep 8, 2014

In today’s world of 24/7 news and social media, you need to be prepared more than ever before. When Southwest Strategies works with a client, our job is to think through how we can help accomplish the client’s goal. Depending on the goal, many times the first thing we do is develop a strategic plan – a step-by step guide that lays out the strategy; outlines goals and objectives; and identifies the tactics we will employ to achieve the client’s goal. We believe developing a strong and detailed strategic plan will keep the project on-track to a successful outcome.

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Key Steps to Developing Your Strategic Plan


Once you, your organization or your client decides to move forward with a comprehensive plan, you would want to schedule a kickoff strategy meeting with the project team. This will give you the opportunity to flesh out key details and brainstorm through the possible opportunities and challenges that could emerge during the project, as well as the best ways to mitigate any potential crises and take advantage of opportunities.

During these discussions, ask your team thought-provoking questions: What should our key messages be? Who might oppose the project and why? Who might support the project and become strong advocates? You should take notes, and begin thinking through how to maximize any opportunities and be prepared for, or come up with ways to avoid, any potential problems. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive.


After you complete your kickoff meeting, you may be thinking, “What next? I have a lot of information, but what is important? How do I choose the appropriate tactics? Why should I employ one tactic over the other?” Start by thinking through the plan elements. This will help you successfully outline and develop your plan. Keep in mind each plan can differ according to the scope of the project and can evolve depending on numerous factors, including project milestones, media coverage, project timeline adjustments, etc.


The first element to include in your strategic plan is a project description. What is the project? Try to create an explanation that is simple for the public to understand but encompassing. You will use this description for all communications moving forward. It also helps to include some key background information: How did this project come to be? What stage of development is it in? Who have been project allies or opponents? Again, keep the information concise but comprehensive enough to be understood.


The next step is to lay out your key goals. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Obviously you want your project to be successful, but be specific. Set yourself up for success with detailed, measurable goals. For example, goals you set for your project could include: securing approval for a development expansion; overturning a recent law; or understanding your company’s image in the community. Your goals will vary depending on the size and scope of your project.


Next, you need to set quantifiable objectives to ensure you are reaching your goal. Objectives should list out the techniques you will use to measure your success. For example, if your goal is to build public support for your project, an objective might be getting 250 supporters to attend your project rally or hold a series of round table meetings to explain the project and incorporate public input. Always pick objectives that can help you reach your ultimate goal.


How are you going to accomplish the objectives you just set for yourself? You have lots of options. For every project these will be different depending on your audience, budget and stakeholders.

First, it helps to set regular team progress meetings to monitor project milestones and make sure you are on track. Develop a message platform to be incorporated into all aspects of your efforts – it will guide what you say and how you say it.

Next, there are several outreach techniques you may consider. Mix and match what might work best for you, your team and your project. Some options include: conducting a key leader opinion audit to gauge public opinion of your project; hosting public meetings; offering project presentations; developing a project website and social media platforms; developing an eblast series; contacting the media; building a strong stakeholder database; and developing collateral materials, such as brochures, fact sheets and interesting video segments. Don’t worry about the number of tactics. You can always update your plan as you learn more about the project and the stakeholders.


Now that you identified what outreach tactics you want to utilize for your project, it’s time to strategically think about when to implement them. Develop a calendar and think about what your key project milestone dates will be.

Remember, milestone dates may shift. Your communications tactics can shift as well. Be open to necessary adjustments. Keep in mind, while a strategic plan is a living document, having a comprehensive initial plan will give your project a solid start toward reaching your goal.

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