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Image borrowed from The Independent (click image for the link)

Digital communication is a lot like Olympic diving. The value of success depends on the degree of difficulty.

If I successfully execute an easy dive I get fewer points than I would for successfully executing a more difficult dive.

There are lots of tempting easy dives in the world of digital. Follows, fans, likes, retweets, page views, visits. These are things that are easy to affect and easy to measure. These things can make a contribution to a successful strategy, but none of these things are inherently strategic, none of them have any intrinsic commercial value. If these are your KPI’s you are measuring means rather than ends. And strategy properly evaluated should be about measuring valuable commercial ends.

The most important part of strategy development is time spent up front defining purpose.

Too many digital briefs from clients specify solutions: “We want a…”

Whereas what we really want are briefs that share problems: “How can we… ?”

Good planning is about stepping back from the former and understanding the latter. More often than not an understanding of the underlying problem will lead to a better solution than the one specified in the brief.

A higher degree of difficulty does not mean a higher degree of complexity. Far from it. The opposite in fact. It’s just that it’s not always easy to see beyond the means to arrive at a simple, measurable, commercially valuable statement of strategic ends. Something like this:

How can we ensure [insert desired (measurable) behaviour on the part of those whom you seek to influence] so that [insert valuable (measurable) commercial outcome]?

Simple but not easy. Not as easy as monitoring easy dive proxy metrics for sure.

I shared this Olympic diving analogy at the recent Government Communication Network conference in Edinburgh, and it seemed to strike a chord.

Without a proper definition of commercial purpose too much digital communication falls into the trap of what Alexander Aiken called SOS marketing.

SOS = Sending Out Stuff.

We can, should, but too often don’t do better.

 

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