I have spent over ten years in various Policy and Communications units in the Government and while trying to not sound like an extra from the Hollowmen, there is a subtle difference between strategy and policy. Strategies set the targets, policies are methods for getting there.
Most Government Departments have a Communications Strategy, which should be a high level document which broad terms define the communication aims of the agency. With statements like to increase awareness amongst the most disadvantages clients: youth, indigenous, homeless and the elderly of their right and responsibilities in regard to ….
Unfortunately most Communications Strategies are based on previous strategies and are from the time of mass media as the only channel, very much a talk to ideology rather than communicate with.
Most communication strategies are only reviewed every three years or so, which unfortunately in this time of rapidly changing communications technology and practices, is far too long. The maximum time should be 12 to 18 months.
Online Communications Strategy
An Online Communications Strategy should be the aims of what the agency wants to achieve in online communications in the next 12 months, it should directly relate to their Communications Strategy. Any longer is an unrealistic time span, given the rapid changes in online communications technology.
An example would be use social media, paticularly user generated material to inform young people about their rights
Social Media Strategy
A Social Media Strategy is what the agency wants to achieve in the near future using social media. IT should directly relate to the Online Communications Strategy and be far more specific. For example in conjuction with partners, run a competition/s inviting youth to create videos, about their rights with …
As social media technology and behaviour is rapidly changing, only a brave soul, will let a Social Media Strategy last more than 6 months without a review.
This is the strategy for a single social media campaign, it should be directly related to the Social Media Policy, it should run the life of the campaign. Though it needs to be review if the campaign runs more than 3 months. Particularly evaluating how successful a campaign is.
A typical Campaign Strategy is very detailed, with targets and methods of achieving these aims. For example “In conjunction with X, run a competition for young people to upload video to YouTube that informs people about the rights when renting, the prizes will be …”
Social Media Policy
A Social Media Policies should be the rules on engagement. What an agency or employee should and should not do. Before even starting a campaign used in our example, there needs to be policies about User Generate Content, covering such things as user rights, objectionable material etc.
Unfortunately the only Social Media Policy most government departments have is access to all/most social media site is restricted. This is an unproductive policy of the lot, as when the agency needs people with social media expertise where do they find them.
Another reason for even creating some low level Social Media Policies about use and abuse of social media, is to avoid situations like who owns your online networking contacts. A social media policy on contacts would of resolve this questions, quickly. No policies or even worse a No Social Media policy would of left all the contacts in the hands of the ex-employee.
So Many Strategies
You do not need neccarily need four levels strategies, you could get away with a Communications Strategy and either Online Communications Strategy or a Social Media Strategy. Provided each level contains enough details.
However, four levels if strategy is a far more agile approach, allowing for rapid iteration, regular review and quick changes if aims are not being met.
Who writes the Strategy and Policies?
The Communications Strategy, should be written by senior management with communications staff input. The senior management set the goals, the communications staff make sure it is achievable.
The Online Communications Strategy, should be written by the communications staff using the Communications Strategy as a guide. The only input from the IT section should be is the strategy achievable in the time frame. This is all about communications not technology.
Social Media Strategy and Social Media Policies need to be written by people who understand socila media, if you have not got anybody in the agency will these skills then import the talent. There are people out there with the expertise to help you, so hire them to get the basics right first time. It will make all future steps much easier.
It is all Bureaucracy with a capital B
I totally disagree, having a number of short concise strategies makes life easier. A single one page strategy is much easier to see how successful you are at meeting your targets. It makes it much easier to get meaningful KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and are faster to review the strategy and refine it.