Monday, June 18, 2012

The ABC’s of Setting Goals and Objectives

by Monica Faulkenbery, APR

Recently I was asked to judge a national awards program. My category for judging was communication plans. 

It was disheartening to view so many plans, submitted by seasoned public relation professionals, who did not understand the difference between goals and objectives, or strategies and tactics. Many of them wrote tactics as objectives.

So the purpose of this post is to serve as a primer for understanding the difference. It’s not that I’m an expert, but I do understand that you cannot measure the success of a project without setting a measurable objective. Maybe because I have taught it for so long in our APR sessions, but it just seems so simple and reasonable to me, so here’s my version of the 411 on understanding the difference.

First of all, goals are not objectives. Goals are longer-term, broad, and more global future statements of “being.”  Probably unbeknownst to him, Shakespeare was well on his way to writing a goal statement with his famous line of “to be or not to be.” An example of a goal statement is “to become the recognized leader, foster continuing public support, etc.” Consider using action verbs when writing goal statements, such as “to maintain, to continue, to create, to enhance, to increase/decrease, or to promote/prevent.”

Objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, audience specific, relevant, results (outcome) oriented, and time-specific. You should also think short-term and long-term when writing objectives. An easy way to think of it is to remember: who, what, when, and how much? For example, “within six months, 40% of employees will contact the benefits office to inquire about setting up a 401K account.” Or, “by the end of 12 months, 65% of the residents living within one mile of the plant will be aware of at least two anti-pollution projects undertaken by the company.” 

Strategies serve as a road map or approach to reach objectives. This is the planning process of how you will approach the challenge to reach your objective. You probably will have several strategies for each objective. Examples include media relations, third party endorsements, and public engagement.

And finally, tactics serve as specific elements of a strategy. They are how you plan to use your resources to carry out your strategies and work toward your objectives. Examples include meetings, publications, community events, news releases, etc. These are probably what many of us are most familiar with doing; the hands-on activities that get the job done.

So you can see, it is definitely not rocket science or even earth shattering. But it is important and should be something that you pull out of your toolbox and understand how to use. 

Monica Faulkenbery, APR, is the assistant PR Director for the Northside Independent School District and serves on the board of the San Antonio chapter of PRSA.


Abbey said...

Great explanation! I'm proud of groups like PRSA that promote and teach the business strategy that underpins public relations. Too often, PR practitioners emphasize creative tactics and neglect the strategy.

Fellow practitioners, do our profession proud and build your next campaigns with these elements.

Stephan White said...

it is definitely not rocket science or even earth shattering. But it is important and should be something that you pull out of your toolbox and understand how to use.

Public Relations