Cutting back on strategies

Do you have a vertical video strategy? Are you planning on getting one? Let me tell you why you don’t need one.

If someone asked if you were planning on creating a strategy for vertical video, you’d probably say no. But it was still a suggestion in a recent blog post. The topic was content marketing take-aways from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2015. The report says we watch more vertical video, because we watch more video on our smartphones. It’s easier to watch video in a vertical mode on a smartphone, hence the need to adapt our videos to this.

Now, I’m sure the writer of the blog post didn’t literally mean ”Go out and create a separate strategy for vertical video”. He or she didn’t even mean ”Go out and create a separate strategy for using video in your content marketing.”

What the writer probably meant was this: Vertical videos are becoming more important. You should make sure you integrate this fact into your video production process. And that in turn would require one or two sentences in a check-list. Like ”If this video primarily will be consumed on smartphones, make it vertical” or even ”Because our target group primarily interacts with us via smartphones, our videos should always be vertical ”.

There. Done and dusted. No strategy required.

What is strategy?

A strategy is your road to victory. It’s your plan on how to succeed with your business, or your plan on how to communicate with your target audience in order to achieve your goals. And so on. The reason why you need a strategy is that there are a number of different ways to do business or communicate, so you need to decide how you are going to do it.

And because any strategy without a clearly defined set of actions is just a wish list you also need to define resources and processes, activitities and measurements. 

Strategies have been around for thousands of years, and the reason for this is that without them you can never win. The first lesson of Sun Tzu, author of The Art Of War from around 500 BC, is this: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. What he means is that if you just create a strategy without specific actions it will take forever to get things done, but if you skip the strategy part altogether and go straight for the action you will fail totally.

But that doesn’t mean that you need a whole bunch of strategies. You need one. That’s it.

Why people don’t like strategy

One thing I notice again and again is that a lot of people really dislike strategy (and strategists). They see it as a waste of time, as something that takes time and resources away from doing hands-on stuff, and as something that makes work unnecessarily complicated.

And this never ceases to astonish me. Since I see strategies as really useful to have. They make work easier (you don’t have to invent the wheel over and over again), they provide clear goals and directions (so you can focus on getting things done and measure the right things) and they make sure you don’t do a lot of unnecessary things (by actually telling you what to do and how to do it).

But it’s still a fact. A lot of people don’t like strategy. And I suspect it has a lot to do with suggestions like “Get a vertical video strategy”. Because to them it’s another strategy to pile on top of the already growing mountain of other strategies. Useless strategies, if we’re going to be frank about it.

Pruning the strategy tree

It seems like one misstake we’re prone to commiting again and again is to create another strategy.  In my field, communication and marketing, it happens every time a new format or channel comes along. And yes, if we have an app strategy or a Facebook strategy, then I suppose it would seem reasonable that we need a vertical video strategy too.

So let’s go the other way. We need to know what we’re going to do with apps, with Facebook and with video, but that can all be resolved within the parameters of a communication and marketing strategy. One strategy. That’s all we need within the area of communication and marketing. Everything else – brand, messaging, media, channels, measurements and so on, can be taken care of on the level of actions and activities.

If we did this I believe more companies would actually have strategies that were of more use to them than the ones they have now. And I’m certain it would do wonders for the way people look at strategy and strategists.

Let’s give it a try!

Over to you

Do we have the right number of strategies, do we need more or less? What can we do to make better use of them? Share your insights in the comments section below.

And if you want to read more about how to create a strategy, here’s a post.


Image credit: Zechariah Judy, Painting scissors with light 1, Flickr

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