Strategize Your Way to Success

By Carla D. Bass, Col, USAF (Ret), published by MOAA

What do poker, chess, monopoly, and influential writing have in coPeople at a clear board developoing a strategy to succeedmmon? Strategy. It is the foundation to influential communication – written and verbal. It allows you to leverage the audience’s time and available space to your advantage. Here are three steps that will help you sharpen your strategy:

1) Identify, prioritize, and present the most critical points of your message. To strategize your message, identify and prioritize critical bits of information — the golden nuggets. You can do this by timing yourself in intervals of 90 seconds, five minutes, and 10 minutes, what information must you provide in these times? Like developing a budget, some items will fall above and others below the cut line.

2) Juxtapose your position against competing ones. Research them thoroughly, identify key differences, and highlight advantages you offer. Strategic thinking often involves knowing the counter argument and presenting your case against it. For example, your stance on a policy issue or a bid on a contract could pit you against some stiff competition. In such a case research the opposition and contrast the positions, placing yours in the most favorable light. Remember, the argument must be logical, fact-based, and professional to be influential.

When applying for a grant, for instance, first identify the grantor’s primary mission, values, goals, and objectives. Then, identify, prioritize, and highlight the strongest alignments between your organization’s resources and capabilities and the grantor’s interests. If you are aware of a competing submission, acknowledge its merits but indicate how yours is better, point by point.

3) “Look harder!” The advice Rafiki offers in The Lion King will help you understand the actual mission need identified in a request for proposal (RFP) or offer of a grant – and write to that. “Looking around the corner” is another element of strategic thinking. If, for example, the government issues an RFP for a project, don’t simply approach that document as written. Perhaps the RFP captured it, perhaps not. Communicating that depth of understanding to the issuing office could catapult you ahead of the competition – those who didn’t think so strategically.


Carla D. Bass, Colonel, USAF (Ret) is the author of “Write to Influence!” She also conducts writing workshops. For more information about Carla, her book, and workshops see