Strategic planning – What’s the difference between strategy and planning?

Have you ever tried to explain the difference between content strategy and planning?

It’s a question we get asked all the time, and it sounds straight-forward, but separating the two is not as easy as it seems.

Content strategy and planning are so intrinsically entwined it can be hard to see where the strategy ends and planning begins. But by trying to understand how they are different – and the differing challenges they present – we create more effective, less time-consuming strategies.

While this process of understanding the difference was a great step for us in creating better strategies, there are always more improvements to be made. To save you encountering the same obstacles we did, we will be documenting our experience so far in the following series of blog posts.

Defining content strategy and planning

The first part of understanding how strategy and planning are different is to define them. Everyone has their own definition of strategy and planning and there are much smarter, well-placed people than I to come up with a definition. So courtesy of our Director of Strategy.

“Content strategy defines the rules which inform the analysing, monitoring and continuous adjustment of your content marketing efforts, to achieve specific goals.”

Planning then comes second, which is how to take these rules and make them a reality.

The Challenges

Even with these definitions, it’s easy to see the overlap. Both are the solution to a problem, but strategy is the process of “thinking” about how to solve the problem, and planning involves developing the steps needed to taken to resolve the problem. So where does strategic planning fit in?

Challenge 1 – Making things happen

The problem is, many marketers feel frustrated that they spend all their time thinking and not actually doing. Content strategy can be quite “fluffy” and hypothetical, and without planning, the strategy can end up simply being great ideas that never develop into something realistic to implement. The better and more out-there the idea the harder it is to plan and therefore the less likely it is to be implemented well.

Challenge 2 – Every strategy is different

When we have a past experience as a frame of reference, the task of planning is much easier. We can take established wisdom of the task in hand and create a cohesive plan. But the nature of strategy – particularly in the digital age – is that it varies greatly from business to business. Strategy involves taking dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of factors into account – it is multifaceted, not one-size-fits-all. You’re going to need to design a framework in which you can plan. This can be seen as strategic planning.

Still a little unsure? Dont worry. You don’t need to be able to differentiate, you just need to know what to do. We have years of experience in strategy behind us, and while there is no straightforward solution for every business, what we can do is give you some examples of what we do.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be guiding you through two examples of how we implemented strategy and planning – one for a business with little to no content strategy and one with a solid content strategy that we were tasked with improving. We hope that these examples can help other businesses to understand how strategy and planning can benefit their business, and also help them to develop their own practices.

 

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