Strategic vs Tactical Writing

Strategic vs Tactical Writing

Some five hundred years ago, a 26-year-old sculptor was given the task of turning a leftover slab of marble into a work of art. Other artists had tried to give life to the stone and had failed, but the young artist took on the contract, determined to shape the marble that others had discarded.

Early in the morning on September 13, 1501, the young artist began to work in order to extract his vision from the piece of stone. He carved and carved until he set his dream free.

Later, artist Giorgio Vasari would describe the process as, “bringing back to life of one who was dead.”

In June 1504, the statue, a depiction of the Biblical character David of epic proportions, was installed at the entrance of the city’s town hall. The name of the artist? Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known best as Michelangelo.

“How did you create such a masterpiece from a crude slab of marble?” asked an admirer. “It was easy,” Michelangelo responded. “All I did was chip away everything that wasn’t David.”

Michelangelo, for all his genius, was quite infamous for such remarks. On another occasion, he simply stated, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

The problem with “actionable" writing is that it’s become a commodity. It often requires little subject matter expertise and lacks specificity. This isn’t to say that you shouldn't share actionable advice in your books, but if all that you do is share actionable advice, it’s sure to be ineffective.

Before we go any further, let’s clarify these two terms.

Tactical writing shows readers how to accomplish a task. It’s actionable and includes step-by-step directions. Imagine lots of graphics/screenshots annotated with arrows.

Strategic writing, on the other hand, teaches you how to think. It's not actionable, it's adaptable. One can deploy the same framework across a multitude of different niches, industries, and situations. One can adapt the strategy to develop a number of different tactics, which they can then test out over a certain period of time.

Tactical readers—the implementers who need instructions on writing email subject lines or growing a Twitter following—benefit from writing that's actionable. The more actionable, the better.

Strategic thinkers—authority figures and experts within a certain niche or industry—don’t need step-by-step directions. They need models, frameworks, and principles to guide their thinking.

As you build and refine your book marketing strategy, think of your readers on a spectrum from tactical to strategic. You’ll want to address both ends and everything in the middle.

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