Don’t Let a ‘Brilliant’ PR Strategy Blind You

February 5th, 2016

The importance of having both strategy and execution covered on your communications team can never be understated. Over the years, we’ve worked with some highly regarded PR and marketing strategists. They dazzled executives with grand ideas promising to elevate brand awareness among stakeholders in a way they would never forget. But those strategists couldn’t execute their vision… at all. Their ideas were so grand, they weren’t realistic from a budget or timing perspective. So how great were their ideas, really?

Conversely, we’ve worked with some PR industry veterans who rocked at tactical execution but operated without a strategy to guide the what and why of their execution. What’s the point if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve?

Certainly, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and we can’t be incredible at everything. But when it comes to formulating your PR team or choosing your PR firm, make sure your team consists of players who are capable of both strategy and execution.

Establishing a multi-disciplined team can ensure your strategy is executable. Harvard Business Review published an article by Roger L. Martin, professor at and the former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, and co-author of Playing to Win, that really articulates this point. He wrote, “Blaming poor execution for the failure of your ‘brilliant’ strategy is a part of what I’ve termed ‘The Execution Trap’ — how ‘brilliant’ can your strategy really be if it wasn’t implementable?”

Furthermore, studies have shown that closing the so-called strategy-to-performance gap happens through better planning AND execution. That is, to develop realistic plans that are grounded in the economics of your organization and following those plans to drive execution. One firm, Marakon Associates, conducted a study on this a few years ago, and found that the failure to have the right resources in the right place at the right time can reduce the value potential of a strategy by 7.5 percent or more. Correlate this to your marketing budget. Without the right resources, you could be wasting 7.5 percent or more of your budget.

When you outsource parts of your business activities, such as PR and marketing, look for people or firms that can demonstrate their ability to deliver realistic strategies and successful execution. Don’t be misled by examples of strategic thinking that aren’t tied to results. Ask for case studies, and talk with their current and former clients.  Find resources who don’t necessarily distinguish between strategy and execution because they understand fully that one carries little value without the other. When strategies align with your business goals, the success of your execution can be measured and will result in greater return on investment for your organization.