Southwest airlines is consistently rated one of the “Most Admired Corporations in America.” It’s the biggest domestic carrier in the US. Kelleher is “Probably the best CEO in America” according to Forbes. So maybe there’s something for us to learn from this statement. This talks to the importance of not over-emphasizing and over glamorizing planning. Plans are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. They exist to help drive an organization forward and meet its goals. Doing things is more important than trying to prognosticate or come up with the perfect plan. Because you’re never going to craft the perfect plan, but you can - by learning by doing - arrive at what will work for you and your organization.
There’s an important distinction between digital and social
Strategy isn’t a document. Strategy is about empowering people to do good work Mission statements and strategies don’t drive an organization forward any more than a hood ornament drives a car. They’re a series of ideas, a synthesis. What really drives an organization forward are committed, empowered people doing interesting, valuable work. What really matters is how well a strategy enables that. So if Herb Kelleher is correct, and doing things is more important than planning them, how do we know what things to do? That’s where strategy comes in: not for planning out in exquisite detail what to do, not to crystal ball gaze in an attempt to accurately predict the future, but to give us the framework and tools to guide our decisions.
Moving an organization into the digital realm: Shifting how an organization behaves, its culture. It’s about how you bring an organization online or further online, in all its aspects Marketing and communications Tactics & execution Planning & executing marketing campaigns And achieving the numeric goals associated with them. This is the version of “digital strategy” a marketing agency will promote. What they usually talk about and try to sell an organization on, is not really strategy, though. It’s just tactics. Real digital strategy lies somewhere in between these two camps. It is about marketing and communicating, but it’s not about just planning campaigns and tactics. In fact, organizational and cultural shift is way more important than any campaign or tactic We can’t begin to market and communicate better until we address some of the institutional issues that are holding us back digitally So, in a nutshell...
Regardless of what you may believe a strategy is, here are a few things it isn’t: A plan - strategy transcends that. It’s not a short-term thing A strategy sets out a vision and the practices for an institution. It contains direction and recommendations, but not schedules and benchmarks. Those belong in individual plans, per unit, per campaign, per faculty, etc. They’re an essential part of what follows on from a strategy. Unlike a strategy, they’re a point in time and they’re tied to specific goals such as a campaign. Strategy isn’t. Done by experts. Businesses fall into the trap that there’s an expert, a ninja, a guru, a ‘grand poobah’ out there who has the knowledge you’re looking for, and they have the answers, and they’re probably a very bright, highly-paid management consultant or guru, because strategic insights have to be precious and valuable and probably expensive, otherwise we’d look foolish to not already know them. but if someone with a special pedigree has them, and if we just track down that one highly-paid guru with the knowledge and the arcane insights, then we’ll have the knowledge and we’ll know what to do, and then we’ll excel and get our performance bonus, or what have you. But it never works that way. Nobody knows your organization like you do, and - again - a strategy isn’t a point in time that someone can swoop in on, define, and then leave. In fact, a strategy is never complete - it’s got to be evergreen and constantly evolving as your organization does. It needs to constantly adjust to a changing institutional & competitive landscape, new technologies, new people, a new organization. It constantly grows as contributors gain greater insights into the institution and potential opportunities. It’s unrealistic to expect even the brightest consultant to gain a perfect understanding of a large and complex institution in a few months. The most important part of strategy isn’t to come up with elaborate plans, or landing on a document. It’s to learn by doing.
So that gets very specific and starts crossing over into tactics. Let’s pull back to 30,000 feet for a second. Strategy is vision. What’s the desired state? Where do you want to go? What does that look liike. Need to be able to paint a picture if you want to engage people. This is what’s meant by being an advocate
Vision’s only one part of the job, however
But when I am wearing my strategic hat, there’s one thing I like to get across. Strategy is the long game No organization was ever shifted substantially overnight. My personal overall strategy is actually very simple: patiently chip away at inertia or hesitation or obastacles, and gently but consistently keep trying to push the organization in the right direction. It’s like the quote. “How do you eat a whale?” “One bite at a time.” One of the great proponents of this strategy was actually Gandhi. Was reading about him in the book, “Quiet.” He was an introvert and totally not a revolutionary. Deathly afraid of speaking in public and so on. But he understood the value of the long game in strategy, and overthrew an empire in the process. He didn’t allow himself to get discouraged by setbacks, and he felt confident that if he kept at his strategy patiently, in the end he’d wear down resistance and win. And he was right. In my case and in an organizatin’s case, the long game is really about organizational shifts Those cultural, organizational and behavioural shifts that I mentioned, which enable the improved marketing and communications that is the other side of digital strategy Some of those shifts: Risk tolerance Innovation Collaboration Openness - all the things that define a high-functioning organization.
This gets back to the goal of helping an organization communicate better online by helping its people communicate better online. Platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. Practices: writing for the web, community management, online customer care, etc.
Active listening on organizational channels Developing and circulating messaging for crises and for promotions, such as for campaigns Keeping a finger on the organization’s pulse
But we’re getting pretty specific with that model, and crossing over into tactics. Let’s pull back to 30,000 feet and talk about the steps you need to take, to come up with a strategy.
This is the fun part. Based on Things you’ve done in the past Things your competitors or colleagues are doing New platforms and technologies Creative ideas Etc.
Causation vs. correlation Winningest coaches don’t copy their rivals, or even pay undue attention to them They focus on their strengths, not what the competition is doing What the competition is doing is unique and idiosyncratic to them. It’s usually not replicable by you. And it doesn’t play to your strengths. This is why you always see NHL coaches This is why I don’t overemphasize competitive scans when coming up with strategies. It’s more important to play to your strengths than to spend endless time and effort trying to mitigate your weaknesses. Competitives cans are great for steal… “being inspired” by the competition’s ideas. Just don’t get too wrapped up in them.
By the time you’re drilling down to the layer of tactics, you’ll get to to something that looks like this. And if you’re wondering why I’ve included a book on entrepreneurism here, it’s because of his definition of what a startup is: “a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty”
Success is unpredictable and idiosyncratic So don’t try to overplan. Try to iterate, to test, to prototype. There is not magic 8 ball, to paraphrase Mitch Joel.
So here’s what strategy boils down to for me in my day-to-day
Pretty lofty! Especially in a decentralized environment, where there’s no governance, and no central authority for these kind of things - that makes it very lofty, very aspirational And, on any given day, that is THE biggest challenge. There is some authority and responsibility for certain things such as branding, but those pieces are few and far between. You will probably discover that you are all carrot - no stick That independence is a big challenge to me, but can also be an organization’s biggest strengths. The wide diversity of voices means a lot of people producing interesting content here. The challenge is being aware of that content and tapping into it.
Here’s the holy grail
Multiply our efforts through a network effect Gain economies of scale Gain efficiencies by eliminating the redundancies and lack of sharing cause by siloes, We don’t have to recreate the wheel every time someone does something new, or executes a project
Agility Trust: people over processes Prototyping Etc.
How many pysychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change. Easier said than done Need advocates, enthusiasts, first movers and ambassadors Need to show successes: demonstrate the viability of an approach Usually need a business champion Encourage acceptance by management What will this do for me? Case studies (reduce risk) Metrics Answer “what’s in it for me?”
Q: So how do we do all this? A: One bite at a time.
Traditional vs Digital vs Social
Social media MarComm
Digital Strategy: 2 different ideas
1. Helping an organization become digital
o Organizational change
o Cultural shift
o Behavioural shift
2. Marketing / communicating digitally
o Tactics & execution
o Marketing campaigns / objectives
Digital strategy = specifying an
What I says
• Helping an organization communicate better
online by helping its people communicate
• That usually means finding a way to help
you reach your audience more efficiently,
more thoroughly and more substantially
What strategy isn’t
• A plan
• Done by experts
• A document
The essence of strategy
o What’s the desired state?
o Paint a picture
o Engage people
Digital Strategy’s only one part of the job
1. Helping an organization’s people
communicate better online
2. Help your unit achieve its goals
a. Improving and defending reputation
b. Issues & crisis mgmt
c. Developing social media channels
d. Building audience
Strategy is the big picture
• The long game
• Cultural / organizational /
o Risk tolerance
What that means for you
• Training & support
o Platforms, practices, etc.
o Best practices
o Analytics & intelligence
o Industry news
• Strategies for units
• Gathering & sharing marketing intelligence
What that means institutionally
• Active listening
o Issues / crises
• Keeping our finger on the pulse of the
institution, through its departments and
• Define the organization’s needs (based on
opportunities, problems, etc.)
• Identify the goals you’ll need to reach, to meet
• Define how you’ll measure attainment of those
• Attach target numbers (more tactical at this
Where the real magic begins
• Coming up with creative ideas & solutions
for how you’ll meet those numbers
• Executing them as tactics
Danger: the competitive scan
Winning coaches don’t focus on the competiton
• “The Lean Startup”
In other terms
• Try something.
• If it works, do more of it.
• If it doesn’t, do less of it.
• Rinse, repeat.
Strategy on a day-to-day basis
• Recognizing opportunities
• Coming up with creative ways to leverage those
• Being an advocate
• Setting an example (“walk the walk”)
• Exploring new channels & platforms
• Supporting the institution
Some of the tools
• Market intelligence: Radian6
• Collaboration: Confluence & Facebook
• Analytics: SproutSocial
• Customer service: HootSuite and the
• Reputation management: Radian6,
HootSuite and Sysomos
The vision: bringing it all together
• SEO (onsite and off)
The holy grail
• An integrated digital & traditional marketing
& communications strategy
• Including new media & traditional media
The benefits to you & the org
• Network effect
• Economies of scale
• Eliminating the redundancies and lack of
sharing cause by siloes
• Don’t have to recreate the wheel
• Raise the organization’s reputation
o Reach more people
o Engage them better and more efficiently
o Get our messages out there
o Show the world the great things happening where
• Work more efficiently as teams and
How we can do this
• Break down barriers to collaboration
• Demonstrate successful prototypes with
discrete projects, that provide examples to
• Demonstrate transparency
• Apply agile concepts to our workflows