What’s the Difference Between PR Goals, Strategies, and Tactics?

By Matter

Understanding the difference between goals, tactics, and strategies will help you organize your PR efforts. But many PR pros misunderstand the difference or fail to map out the difference in writing.

A lot of folks struggle to understand the difference. I’ve seen many a PR pro, and not just newbies, flummoxed when asked to explain the process.

PR Goals

Say you’re a consumer company that wants a public relations agency to “move the needle” on sales for your new line of scented hair care products (with notes of cotton candy, cinnamon, cherry, and the like). Some PR goals might be:

  • Gain inclusion in X stories in top-tier consumer publications discussing trendy/innovative hair care products (BuzzFeed, Vogue, etc.)
  • Compel X top-tier beauty/lifestyle influencers to share about the products
  • Increase Instagram followers and engagement by X%
  • Drive X number of people to the website selling the product

PR Strategy

Okay, so now we have some goals. What’s the strategy here? There are a number of different ways to come at this, but strategy tends to encompass a group of actions aimed at achieving the previously defined goals.

  • For the example we’re using, one strategy could be to implement a celebrity endorsement program (with folks like Chrissy Teigen, Addison Rae, etc.) as the hook to gain coverage across media channels. If “current” celebs are known to be rocking a hot new product, PR work gets a whole lot simpler.
  • Obviously most budgets aren’t sufficient for this kind of approach, so another strategy would be to find an interesting angle in which to position and pitch this product. Maybe the company gives a certain percentage of sales to a charity, or the ingredients are all-natural. Whatever the case may be, the point is to find a feature of the product that makes it newsworthy, because just the fact that it is new isn’t enough in today’s crowded media landscape. 

PR Tactics

A lot of people confuse strategy for tactics, but tactics are really just the strategy on wheels. Generic tactics in this case might be to:

  • “Verticalize” pitching platforms to tailor specific messages to specific audiences, send reporters product to try for themselves
  • Coordinate giveaways and discount codes with influencers of all sizes
  • Capitalize on the resurgence of 90s and early 2000s fashion by partnering with an iconic brand or entity, a la ColourPop and Lizzie McGuire
  • Utilize social media polls so consumers can vote in a bracket for the next new scent 

These are just a few examples, and not all would be relevant or necessary depending on the strategy you are taking. For instance, if your strategy is more social media focused, many of the tactics should revolve around social channels and ways to increase or diversify engagement. Whereas if the strategy is more print media focused, the tactics would be focused on those areas.

Does this help explain the difference between goals, strategies and tactics? If not, here’s another example:

  • Goal:  Eat only food that you personally grow.
  • Strategy: Research the fruits and vegetables that can grow in your area, map out the area of your yard or house that will be your garden area, and schedule your planting and harvesting so you have food year-round.
  • Tactics: Travel to the store, buy seed and supplies, plant your crops and wait to harvest. Have your veggies and eat them, too.

Once you can clearly differentiate your goals from strategy and tactics, you will find it easier to manage and measure your PR efforts.