Since late August, Miley Cyrus has achieved several goals by executing a very well developed and executed strategy. Overall, one could reasonably say her goals were to raise her profile, generate discussion and sell more merchandise. The strategy was to kill off her Hannah Montana persona and introduce her new adult persona by making high profile and edgy appearances on major television programs. The tactics were to release the “new” Miley with the now infamous appearance on the VMA Awards show followed by several other appearances including a prime time interview on The Today Show with Matt Lauer, hosting Saturday Night Live and being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
The result? A No. 1 album on Billboard charts selling 270,000 copies in a week; 234 million views of her “Wrecking Ball” video on YouTube; and 200,000 new fans per day on Facebook. That’s a pretty successful strategy.
As for the other major American strategy played out over the past two weeks, the government shutdown is a much different story. It’s reasonable to say that the goal of the Republican Party was to defund the Affordable Healthcare Act otherwise known as ObamaCare. The strategy appears to have been to force the Democrats to make concessions under pressure of an economic default. The tactic was the government shutdown.
The result? After a 16-day shutdown public opinion about the GOP and the Tea Party slumped according to a WSJ/NBC survey; the survey also indicated that support for ObamaCare actually went up and President Barack Obama’s approval ratings improved. As the two parties negotiated a deal to reopen the government, House Majority Leader John Boehner told a local radio station in Cincinnati, “We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win.”
Not every strategy is successful but in terms of the shutdown plan there were major tactical miscalculations and no reasonable exit strategy. This leads to another critical element of any strategy plan: Understanding your audience. In Miley Cyrus’ case it is reasonable to expect that many, many people were going to be turned off by her new image. It may have even been part of the plan: to separate those who don’t matter to her success (ie. Anyone over 25) from those who do matter (anyone between the age of 12-25). In fact, the public outrage possibly drove her sales higher and higher among her key demographic leading to the overall success of the plan.
On the other hand, the government shutdown didn’t seem to take into consideration how it would affect key audiences. At the end of the day, the tactic didn’t generate support from even the most loyal of conservatives. In reality, the plan boomeranged and has ultimately put the party in a weakened position.
It is essential that strategies include clear goals and tactics. Plans should anticipate challenges and seek to identify a clear path to victory. Even the best strategies change over time and flexibility is key to the success of any plan. Nearly every engagement at Tuckahoe Strategies begins with a SWOT analysis to examine client’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In many cases, we suggest detailed public opinion research to help define messaging, audiences and confirm the overall strategy.
Once the plan is launched, we measure progress with on-going analytics. Today’s measurement tools provide instant feedback for campaigns and allow us to adjust tactics accordingly.
The major take away from the comparison between Miley Cyrus and the GOP is that strategy must take precedence over tactics. Tactics are only effective if one’s strategy is rooted in achievable goals and a firm understanding of key audiences.