Thursday, April 24, 2008

Got Schwerpunkt?

This morning as I was dozing between snooze buttons, the thought came to me that marketing executives looking at social media for the first, or thirtieth, time ought keep the principle of schwerpunkt foremost in their minds. What is schwerpunkt you ask?

Schwerpunkt is a term of art from the military meaning "focal point" or "main effort" or "center of gravity." Clausewitz wrote about schwerpunkt in his 1832 best-seller On War. In the military sense, it means maximum effort and force at the enemy's weakest spot. It also means a focus on the important task, rather than any subordinate tasks. See this example from William Wakes' blog:

From Chris Crawford on Game Design:

"But there's one word, a German word, that we haven't yet stolen that should be high on our list of targets: schwerpunkt. It means 'focal point' or 'concentration of effort point' or 'central point of attack.' It's a beautiful word because it expresses an idea that we just don't have in English: the notion that, in any effort, you may have many necessary tasks, but there is one central task that must take first place in your considerations."

Crawford gives an example of the army: the cook is important, but the soldier (and fighting) is the shwerpunkt. In games, he says, interactivity is the schwerpunkt. It leads me to ask, what is the schwerpunkt for what I'm doing?

In public relations, understanding is the schwerpunkt. Tasks like press releases, Twitters, media tours, websites, blogs, pitches, case studies, webinars and speeches are all potentially part of a successful PR campaign, but the main focus is communicating ideas is such a way so that they are understood. In order to do so, you must first carefully study your audiences, your own company, your marketplace in order to determine where, in fact, the schwerpunkt, or main focus, ought to be. Listening, as well as talking.

Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

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