Tag Archives: Strategy

The Marketing Hypothesis

Though it’s often looked down on by consultant types, I’m a big proponent of planning, especially when it comes to web strategy and public relations.  In mathematical terms, execution without a plan results in a vector that’s all magnitude and no direction – in other words, it takes a lot of energy to go nowhere.  In many ways, marketing is part science, part creativity and a big of old-fashioned good luck.  So, while planning is important, with all these variables, the danger is to get stuck in a plan that ends up taking you in the wrong direction when the world changes around you.

This is especially important for startups, who have to focus as much on the here and now as they do on the long-term.  I recently had coffee with a friend who had recently started his own firm, and he told me about a concept that really resonated with me.  He told me that he didn’t have a marketing plan – he had a marketing hypothesis.

When I asked him what he meant, he told me that they had a marketing plan, and they stuck to it, and soon realized that it wasn’t getting them any results.  The predictions and assumptions they had made about what how their customers would use their product turned out to be wrong, so they changed what they were doing.  He said that from then on, they didn’t stick to a “plan” per se, but rather to constantly try to prove their hypothesis.

As much as marketing is part science, it’s important to remember that science  is, for the most part, about observation.  Because they are constantly observing and testing their hypothesis, they are able to change course quickly and improve results.

Especially when it comes to social media, if you’re marketing your product on the web, you’re operating in a sea of variables, not the least of which is human nature.  Plan where you want to go, but keep in mind that the roads aren’t paved yet, and subject to change without notice.  Work with a marketing hypothesis in mind means that you’re constantly measuring and readjusting, rather than sticking to an all-knowing plan.  If your plan doesn’t work, you’ll always find out.  The only question is whether you’ll find out soon enough to change direction.

Hugh MacLeod is fond of saying “all business models are wrong.”  If that’s the case, testing your marketing hypothesis is the best way to make sure you’re less wrong than your competitors.

Communications Planning Ebook

For the past few months, I’ve been watching Dave Fleet develop his Strategic Communications Planning series with interest.  He recently finished the series, and with some goading from the Twittersphere, he’s now turned it into a free eBook.

The book takes you through the context of the strategy all the way through to budgets and evaluation, and Dave provides suggestions for best practices along the way.

If you’re new to strategic communications planning, this is a must-read.  The amount of information might be a bit overwhelming, but it’s an excellent framework for anyone who needs to write a detailed communications plan.

Thanks for a great resource, Dave!

Why it pays to be a geek in PR

I’ve got a lot of geeky friends. In fact, most of my friends are a geek in some way, shape or form. They’re programmers and designers, but they’re also music geeks, theatre geeks, language geeks, running geeks, media geeks and so on, and for the most part, it’s a big part of why I enjoy being around them. They go out of their way to make themselves into experts in something, whether it’s completely esoteric or utterly practical. It will come as no shock to anyone who has ever met me that I’m a geek too – and it makes me a much better PR guy.

Being good at PR or marketing requires a thirst for knowledge that I would consider above the average. It means more than just knowing how to do your job – it means knowing about technology, about history, about the media, about sociology and a million other tiny little pieces before you can really create anything that comes close to resembling a “strategy.”

Consider the game of chess. A very simple game, but one that requires an intimate knowledge of not only the rules, but the intricacies of the pieces. To be any good at chess means a lot more that just knowing that bishops move diagonally and pawns only move forward – it takes knowing how each of the pieces relates to one another, and how all of the individual pieces comes together to make something much stronger than they are individually.

It’s said quite often that public relations, marketing or advertising is “not about the tools.” That’s a fair statement, but at a much higher level, the profession requires such an intense mastery of the tools – especially when it comes to social media – that it’s not sufficient just to have a textbook understanding of the tools. In order to be a grandmaster, you have to experience them on a level that cannot be read or explained. That’s where being a geek comes in, and that thirst for knowledge and personal depth – no matter how obscure interacting on Twitter or maintaining a podcast may seem to friends outside the industry – becomes a point of differentiation between “practitioner” and “expert.”

For those who are new to the industry, or trying to break in – your best investment in yourself, and ultimately your future tax bracket, is to be a geek. Dedicate yourself to learning about the whole, but spend the extra time understanding each of those moving parts. Your friends might think you’re a bit odd, but the benefit you provide to a future employer will be well worth it.