Every company has its own financial and planning year, so regardless of whether it’s September or midsummer, there’s a marketer somewhere doing planning. And today, many communications folk are reconsidering their plans on a monthly - if not more frequent - basis, given the changeable conditions that we're operating in. So how’s the year going? What is critical for next year's (or next month's!) plan to move towards our longer-term PR goals?
One thing is for sure, if you don’t know, you don’t stand a hope in hell of reaching the PR destination you want.
A PR plan with no goals, no measurable targets and woolly objectives is like driving around with your satnav on, but no destination programmed in. It might be interesting scenery with a sing-along playlist, but it's a waste of time and petrol (or electricity). And without a clear destination to aim for, where will you end up? Possibly back where you started.
Objective setting can go wrong, and here’s how:
Some objectives are beautifully written motivational phrases but lack any numbers, timeframes or value (argh!). Many focus on methods of measurement and shy away from adding hard numerical targets (thoughtful but pointless). Maybe there is no timeframe (so it becomes open-ended). Perhaps there are no milestones, so it seems like a long slog and it can drift off course (no KPIs and mid-way review points). Sometimes the objectives just reflect on the wrong points and encourage huge amounts of effort and budget to be spent on completely the wrong type of activity.
Here’s a check list for what constitutes great PR objectives:
- Forward looking – consider the past, present and future to derive a formal statement of a dream (tempered by realism)
- Realistic – if an objective’s too hard, the team aren’t motivated to achieve it. Too easy and it’s not a challenge
- Actionable – the objective must be within the team’s area of responsibility, and they must have the authority to achieve it
- Clear – if objectives are unintelligible, people may achieve something very different to what’s intended
- Communicated – don’t assume that teams know what objectives they’ve been set simply by the tasks they’ve been given
- Agreed – therefore more likely to be achieved
SMART objectives are often bandied around and that’s a good approach. SMARTS include all of the above, plus evaluating and reviewing processes.
Here’s an example of what a good objective looks like:
When writing a PR plan for the next x months (timeframe), ensure that each campaign (quantity) has clearly-stated objectives which must include a budget, a start/review/completion date, and at least two other forms of measurement (quality, money) which are indisputable numbers or dates, easily measured and not ambiguous or subjective.
Even better would be if PR objectives can be related directly back to the client’s overall business objectives – for example lead generation, market share or share of voice. PR is no longer just about reputation management – it has a real business role to play too. Our PR evaluation whitepaper goes into detail on how this can be proved.
If you’d like a PR campaign with clear objectives like this which will deliver the results you want, do give us a call. Also, I run courses on Objective Setting for Successful PR campaigns, so let me know if you’d like more information.