• Is it time to reshape our thinking around strategy?

    Key words such as situational analysis, target audience and tactics are terms communication specialists are faced with in the quotidian enigma of conveying messages effectively to different publics.

    Ultimately, the goal in communications is to converse with the target public in such a way that specific objectives are achieved, whether that is raising a company's reputation or prompting behavioural change. Accordingly, the foundation to reaching any goal is a well-shaped strategy that creates a competitive advantage.

    In 1979, Harvard University professor Michael Porter decided to move away from what, until that point, had been a pure focus on price and adding new depth to the understanding of the macro environment. To achieve this, he developed what is now widely known and implemented as his five forces.

    With the competitive environment changing continuously, three decades after the initial introduction of the five forces, it might be time to rethink strategic approaches yet again.

    What new thinking might look like

    Critiquing Porter's framework as not flexible and dynamic enough, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne developed the blue ocean strategy. It is an approach aimed to change the way competition is viewed and approached, and shift towards collaborative thinking. 

    The fundamental move away from what is determined as the currently existing markets (red oceans) to the application of win-win thinking in all instances to create new markets (blue ocean), is a concept similar to what communications specialists should be focusing and excelling at already: relationship building.

    Why Porter's five forces have been effective

    By assessing an industry's competitive environment, Porter's five forces surpass the general concept of SWOT analysis and are underpinned by more holistic approaches. The economics expert's framework looks at the intensity and relative balance between the following factors: threat of new entrants, threat of substitutes, competitive rivalry, power of buyers and power of suppliers. 

    The goal within each category is to analyse how one's organisation fares in relation to the macro environment in order to determine whether the industry is favourable and attractive to operate within. Thus, the effectiveness of Porter's approach lies in the fact that it gives a holistic view of the market, thus allowing decision makers to account for more than simple price questions. 

    However, as the globalised world continues to pivot, the thinking we have become accustomed to over the last three decades needs to change as well. As such, instead of applying traditional concepts, it is time to think outside of the box and assess how communication skills may be applied in a broader sense of win-win approaches, thus blue ocean strategy.

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