Award-Winning Award Entries: Differentiating Between Strategies and Tactics

Sep 16, 2020

Whenever I get award entries (or PR proposals for that matter) to review, I am always struck at how much confusion there is between what constitutes a strategy versus a tactic.

Generally what I will find is that the strategies and tactics are mixed together in some sort of strange PR stew that is like covering seasoned beef with strawberry jam. Both are tasty on their own, but together they just don’t quite work.

This confusion becomes more evident on entry forms that ask for deeper details. If all the competition is asking for is some company details and 300-word description of why whatever you did is award-worthy you don’t have to spend a lot of time separating strategy and tactics.

If, however, the entry form asks for 500 words on strategies around the objectives, then another 500 words on the tactics/execution you used to achieve the objectives, well, you’re going to need to understand the difference. Or find someone who does. Or hope the judges don’t understand it any better than you do.

Basically, the strategy is the overall plan of action – the big picture of what you intend to do. The tactics are the actions you take to get it done.

In baseball, for example, the strategy in a close game might be to advance a runner on first into scoring position (i.e., second or third base for those not familiar with baseball lingo). Doing so will give you a heightened opportunity to add a run to your total (at least in theory; SABRmetrics has shattered a lot of those beliefs in recent years).

HOW you advance that runner is where the tactics come in. You could lay down a sacrifice bunt. You could have the hitter try to bunt for a hit. You could do a hit-and-run, where the runner on first takes off for second and the hitter tries to hit the ball behind him to the right side. You could have the runner on first steal second while the hitter covers him with a swing and miss.

All of those are valid tactics or ways of getting the runner to second. Which you use depends on your personnel and a whole bunch of other factors.

Now let’s talk about PR award entries and why it seems so difficult to tell the two apart. Let’s say one objective of the program is:

“Company A was losing sales to larger competitors, so it needed to create a larger-than-life image to overcome this hurdle.”

How did they plan to do that? The strategy was to use PR to increase its visibility in the marketplace without the huge investment advertising would require. But here’s where it starts to go wrong.

The next sentence in the “strategy” section will talk about how Company A started issuing press releases and thought leadership pieces on a regular basis.

No, those are tactics. They required specific actions from Company A or its agency. The same is true with launching a media relations or analyst relations program. Those, again, are actions the company took.

Again, strategy defines what needs to be done on a broad scale – in other words a business issue. Tactics describe the steps you will take/are taking/have taken to accomplish the strategy.

Here are a few more quick examples that will help stratify the three areas – goals/objectives, strategy and tactics – in your award entries and other materials:


  • Increase share of voice
  • Improve company reputation
  • Establish new market
  • Attract funding
  • Position for sale


  • Create a thought leadership program
  • Engage subject matter experts (SMEs) in developing content
  • Improve understanding of what media outlets clients/prospects rely on
  • Gain a better understanding of what product features/benefits are important to customers/prospects
  • Make messaging more concise/easier to understand


  • Issue X number of press releases for the year
  • Write byline articles on these specific topics
  • Develop a media list
  • Media-train SMEs and other company spokespeople
  • Apply for awards/speaker opportunities

The beauty of understanding the differences is that award entries then practically write themselves. They tell the story of how you started broadly, then worked your way through the process to achieve the results.

Taking that little bit of extra time to think through what is a strategy versus a tactic isn’t always easy. But it’s worth the effort – especially when you receive that happy notification that you’ve won the award you were targeting.

Ken Krause

An award-winning writer for his work in advertising, marketing and public relations, Ken Krause has a diverse background that includes more than 30 years of combined agency- and client-side experience. Ken has in-depth experience in technology products and services, healthcare, supply chain, consumer electronics and other vertical markets. He previously served as Vice President of Content Services at Tech Image, where he spent 14 years. Ken also served as Marketing Communications Manager at ASAP Software (now a part of Dell). His earlier career includes stints as an Account Manager at Marketing Support, Inc. and McKee Advertising and as a Senior Copywriter for Meyer/Fredericks.