But is the strategy good for the communicators?
Strategic consumer orientation is certainly absolutely justified but it's important to highlight the company/agency side of the coin, too.
Actionability means that
a) there actually are obvious actions/solutions you can derive from that strategy/idea
b) the strategy/idea helps managing and coordinating the company’s/agency’s activities.
Basically you could say: "You should be able do make more great stuff more easily with this strategy or idea in mind." You could also call it the Fertility of an idea or strategy. (http://account-planning-confessions.blogspot.de/2013/04/on-creative-fertility-of-idea.html)
To support this notion, let me quote what Sarah Watson, CSO at BBH in NY says about the role of a brand essence: "The real question is whether the brand short hands we work with contain a sufficiently nourishing narrative for those working with them to create something good. I always remember Tom Ford describing how he was able to simultaneously design for Yves St Laurent and Gucci; 'one is Audrey Hepburn, the other Sophia Loren'. A quick shorthand but one that had enough vividness and depth for him to create collections and communications season after season." http://www.contagiousmagazine.com/2013/10/a_safe_distance.php
While this seems obvious it gets often forgotten by planners. The result are often so called "not well executed strategies" which in reality might have been not very actionable ones.
In creative terms planners often have strategies of limited or even negative creative impact. E.g. highly "psychological" ideas that are often very hard to be depicted (typically in print media). Or ideas that lead to very stereotypical expressions in all kinds of media. Let's say you come up with something like "self-efficacy" as the brand benefit - it often leads to claims such as "You decide". Which seems OK, but how do you show that you decide yourself - let's say in print? But isn't it hard to show "decisions" ... and even more hard: decisions you make yourself as opposed to not yourself? Another example is one of my most hated type of ideas: those built around "Individualism". In 9 of 10 cases this ends up in showing "our weird customers" (= motorcycle bikers or girls with punk-like haircuts) to make clear that they are "individuals". That's awful.
Sufficiently broad communication platforms:
Another important issue that has to do with Actionability is the question "How broad and open should a positioning or idea be?" An actionable positioning / idea should be narrow enough to spark off clear and distinctive executions. On the other hand brand management needs platforms to allow for multiple actions now and in the future - in dozens of channels. So actually, breadth is often vital too. Just think of Coke and their "Happiness" - which is as broad as can be. Old school planning insisted strongly on narrow ideas with little ambiguity. I believe that real Actionability is about maximizing both: absolute clarity of direction AND a sufficient breadth for a whole array of possible actions. This is less contradictory than it sounds. Another example of this is "Good Food deserves Lurpak":
There is certainly more to say about the Actionability of a strategy but I'd rather leave it on that note and maybe revisit the issue someday with some fresh thoughts and examples.