The best strategy: Don’t strategize.

This may be a controversial statement, but I believe it to be true:

The best digital communications strategy is to learn how to not strategize so much.

It connects us back to the ‘be authentically transparent’ concept, the ‘interact like humans’ concept, all the various statements that are so hard to quantify.

What I mean is, when we engage in communication with another person, be it for personal or professional reasons, and we are ‘in the moment’, responding naturally and genuinely and listening to what the other person is saying rather than just waiting to talk, conversations take on a natural flow and rhythm that we don’t even notice as something special other than “that was a nice conversation”.

Inversely, when we are always thinking of the ‘most appropriate’ way to respond, when we “don’t want to hurt someones feelings”, when we “think about” the “best thing to say” before we say it, we are up in our heads, making all kinds of assumptions about probable outcomes, filtering through a usually inaccurate and limiting sense of who we think we are as individuals, and viewing the world through an ‘us vs them’ filter.

 This leads to unengaging and disconnected conversations, be it with a coworker, as a business or with a girlfriend.  Even if people can’t quite put their finger on it, something feels off about the conversation, and they most likely wont remember it that fondly.

ConversationThis is not our fault of course.  We are trained in business school that ‘those people out there’ are a demographic to be targeted.  We are trained by our own minds not to trust our instincts, no matter how much “go with your gut” lessons we learn.  We want to be safe. We want to plan for every contingency.

 

The thing about contingency planning is that the element of spontaneity that drives memorable interactions gets lost, and people feel as if they’re being treated generically rather than personally.

So I urge you (and I say this as someone with Communications Strategist on my business card): Whenever possible, don’t strategize.  Just do it.

Am I wrong?

 

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Heather Rast

I believe the social nature of all people compels us to reach out, to talk, to share. Historically, companies exist outside of the human realm to serve as institutions. Did that necessarily make them more credible? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable? No. But they talked the talk, and for awhile we all bought it. Nowadays, technology and culture push more power down to the people. Company A doesn’t need to tell us they know their market, we can determine that for ourselves. While I agree with Jason’s comment (strategy steers the game), I think your point has definite merit – businesses definitely can over-think (and overcomplicate) their messaging and their process. The result is sanitized messaging or content that may even be out of step with their brand position. Where did all that built-in credibility go?

Thanks for a good read, Jeremy! @heatherrast

Allen Snook

Amen! I couldn’t agree more. I catch myself doing the same thing – worrying about putting my best foot forward, and trying to help everyone have a win-win, and it’s just too much – political correctness does not build credibility. (Now, that said, some environments don’t seem to take much currency in credibility. Hmmm.)

Anthony Santagati III

I don’t think you need to be without strategy at all. The key is to keep that strategy basic & focused (for obvious legal & brand-appropriate issues) so within that simple strategic framework, a conversation can be spontaneous. You don’t need microstrategies for every interaction. It’s the difference between approaching things as the board of directors and not as the CEO. Broad strokes, not small ones.

Jeremy Meyers

That’s why i said “so much”. It’s when we rely on strategy for every little interaction that the connection gets muddied.

Mary Anderson

The headline sure brought me here in a hurry as I work in a SocMed Digital PR agency. And we are all about ‘strategy’. I really appreciate your distinction between planning for every contingency and just communicating (engaging). One can certainly tell the difference between engagement and PR or marketing speak and then you wonder who is initiating the conversations. Are they really from the ‘players’ within? Or outsourced and agency driven?

These are great distinctions for strategists and practitioners to ponder.
.-= Mary Anderson´s last blog ..Social Media: The Top 10 Buzzwords =-.

AJ

Great concept and in many instances which it were that obtainable, but in the corporate world that may very well get you fired.

Jason Falls

I hear ya! It certainly forces you to engage in a more genuine fashion when you aren’t encumbered by goals and programs and schedules and such. But without all those, you can’t measure what you did since you don’t really know what you were trying to do.

I think your proposal works for engagement. Don’t strategize about how to engage … just freakin’ talk to people. But going to bat without a strategy is going to leave you high and dry when the boss asks, “What did we accomplish?”
.-= Jason Falls´s last blog ..How To Write For Search Engines Without Knowing SEO =-.

Heather Rast

I believe the social nature of all people compels us to reach out, to talk, to share. Historically, companies exist outside of the human realm to serve as institutions. Did that necessarily make them more credible? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable? No. But they talked the talk, and for awhile we all bought it. Nowadays, technology and culture push more power down to the people. Company A doesn’t need to tell us they know their market, we can determine that for ourselves. While I agree with Jason’s comment (strategy steers the game), I think your point has definite merit – businesses definitely can over-think (and overcomplicate) their messaging and their process. The result is sanitized messaging or content that may even be out of step with their brand position. Where did all that built-in credibility go?

Thanks for a good read, Jeremy! @heatherrast

Allen Snook

Amen! I couldn’t agree more. I catch myself doing the same thing – worrying about putting my best foot forward, and trying to help everyone have a win-win, and it’s just too much – political correctness does not build credibility. (Now, that said, some environments don’t seem to take much currency in credibility. Hmmm.)

Anthony Santagati III

I don’t think you need to be without strategy at all. The key is to keep that strategy basic & focused (for obvious legal & brand-appropriate issues) so within that simple strategic framework, a conversation can be spontaneous. You don’t need microstrategies for every interaction. It’s the difference between approaching things as the board of directors and not as the CEO. Broad strokes, not small ones.

Mary Anderson

The headline sure brought me here in a hurry as I work in a SocMed Digital PR agency. And we are all about ‘strategy’. I really appreciate your distinction between planning for every contingency and just communicating (engaging). One can certainly tell the difference between engagement and PR or marketing speak and then you wonder who is initiating the conversations. Are they really from the ‘players’ within? Or outsourced and agency driven?

These are great distinctions for strategists and practitioners to ponder.
.-= Mary Anderson´s last blog ..Social Media: The Top 10 Buzzwords =-.

AJ

Great concept and in many instances which it were that obtainable, but in the corporate world that may very well get you fired.

Jason Falls

I hear ya! It certainly forces you to engage in a more genuine fashion when you aren’t encumbered by goals and programs and schedules and such. But without all those, you can’t measure what you did since you don’t really know what you were trying to do.

I think your proposal works for engagement. Don’t strategize about how to engage … just freakin’ talk to people. But going to bat without a strategy is going to leave you high and dry when the boss asks, “What did we accomplish?”
.-= Jason Falls´s last blog ..How To Write For Search Engines Without Knowing SEO =-.

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