President’s April message to IPRA members
5 years, 5 months ago
A few times per year, I am part of a changing group of judges of various public relations award schemes, pouring over the entries of communications agencies, in-house communications departments and other communication organizations. Just recently, I reviewed a selection of entries of contenders for the Bulgarian BAPRA Awards. In the near future, the same will go for IPRA’s own Golden World Awards (GWA).
The general discussion among judges, when and if we do actually meet face to face, usually centers on the general level of quality on the one hand, and on the emergence of new trends on the other. One of the other typical aspects of the requirements for many PR awards entries is to briefly state the communication challenges that were faced and the communication strategy that was followed.
Challenge v. strategy
More than once I have been struck by the apparent confusion these two phenomena cause. Not seldom is the communication challenge described in terms of a situational analysis or, as will happen often too, in a simple repeat of the problem to be tackled. This does not necessarily mean that the eventually resulting communication program will be misguided, but it does raise questions about the level of interpretation. Anything can be a communication challenge in a generic sense; but only targeted programs will have analyzed the communication challenge in a specific sense.
A similar tendency manifests itself in some entries when the communication strategy must be stated. Frequently, this comes down to listing a range of activities against a more or less tactical backdrop. In communication literature, strategy is often described as a means to an end (the end being the purposes and objectives of an organization). For the whole organization, strategy will be formulated in broad terms; for specific programs in more specific or competitive terms.
It is questionable if a communication program can reach its stated objectives if the strategic ‘how’ is largely answered by a tactical ‘what’. One also wonders if the appropriate messaging will not be squashed between these two fundamental aspects of the communication, especially when the latter gets disproportionally more attention from PR practitioners than the former.
In my experience, most of the communication programs, which are entered into the award schemes I am a judge on, show a great deal of creative vigor. The achieved results are sometimes impressive, the more so if measuring along the lines of the Barcelona Principles 2.0 is applied. What remains is the slight yet persistent matter of the umbilical relationship between strategy and tactics. When the first is blurred, it is hard to judge the merit of the second, no matter how any given campaign seems to have panned out. One likes to be able to follow the unbroken chain between research and analysis, strategy development, messaging and tactics and results. So, on the basis of an admittedly non-representative overview of communication programs entered for PR awards, my question remains: is strategy undervalued and underachieved? I like to hear your opinion about it.
P.S.: IPRA’s Golden World Awards are open for entries! For more go to: www.ipra.org
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