Why you should use SOSTAC to plan your marketing and communications activity


If you use one model to help you plan your marketing and communications activity, SOSTAC should be it.

SOSTAC was introduced to the world in 1999 by PR Smith’s book Strategic Marketing Communications: New Ways to Build and Integrate Communications and it’s been helping marketers and communicators plan their strategies for 20 years.

But what makes it such an enduringly useful tool? Well, because it’s simple.

The model is a clear outline of the things you need to think about in the order that you need to think about them. It walks you through the process of developing your strategy, coaching you through the issues, factors and goals that underpin the need for marketing communications activity.

Let’s go through the SOSTAC model.

  • Situation – where are you now as a business?

This part of the process involves looking inside and outside of your business to nail down a current understanding of your business objectives and market position. Use SWOT and PESTEL analysis to get to grips with your environment, and look at who your customers are and what your competitors are doing.

  • Objectives – what do you want to achieve?

As always, marketing communications objectives need to be two things: aligned to your business/organisational objectives and SMART. I won’t budge on those two.

Ensure that any marketing communications activity supports the delivery of a business goal, and that your SMART objectives are focused on that. You want to be clear on your purpose and how you’ll know you’ve been successful.

  • Strategy – how are you going to achieve your goals?

The strategy for positioning your organisation where you want it to be. This is your high-level plan for success.

  • Tactics – what are you going to do to achieve your goals?

A detailed plan for the tactics you will deploy to deliver your strategy and achieve your goals. Your tactical plan can (and probably will) include a range of marketing communications channels and the full marketing mix, giving you a variety of options for reaching your audience with your messages.

  • Action ­- what next?

A timed plan for how you’re going to deliver your strategy. This is your strategic to-do list.

  • Control – how did you do?

The metrics you’ll use to measure your success. Those metrics should be linked to your objectives (remember the ‘measureable’ in SMART?) so you can clearly see how you’re doing during the length of your plan. You should also define a budget here so you know what you’re spending and can calculate a return on investment for your efforts.

It’s a flexible model that can be used at any stage of your business.

SOSTAC allows you to be as detailed or brief as you need to be. If you have a new business model to get to grips with, then you might want to do more situational analysis to define your market entry and positioning strategy. Or your strategy section might need to be multi-layered, with pricing, content and engagement components creating a comprehensive plan of attack.

This model really is the simplest way to define your challenge and set out a timed, costed and measureable plan of action to achieve your goals. What’s not to love?

Keep SOSTAC in your strategic arsenal and you’ll forever be armed with a model that will help you get to where you want to be.

If you want help to crack your marketing communications strategy, I can work through the SOSTAC model with you to make sure your activity does what you need it to. Email me at hello@dawnmcguigan.com to have a chat.

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