I’m a fan of planning. I’ve written on it before here and here. Planning is a big part of a PR program’s success or failure. I love the way the lightbulb comes on in my head as I work through the data gathered during research to determine the best approach to take in communicating with my audiences.
I asked in that earlier planning post “How many times have you sat in brainstorming meetings where the focus tends to center on tactics that others in the room think should be done?”. It’s a common error made by young and seasoned professionals alike — putting all your attention on tactical execution without understanding the puzzle pieces before that such as who are we targeting, what messages will resonate, what time frame are we working within, and more.
One of the first steps in planning is to set “goals” and “objectives” based on the research that has been conducted. I have found that most people improperly define these terms. Goals are more global in nature, indicating the ultimate outcome of the program. A goal should be a statement of being, such as “XYZ agency expects to become the pre-eminent PR firm in the midwest.” Goals are the overall results you wish to achieve. Objectives are more specific and relate directly to one or more audience. Objectives define what behavior, attitude or opinion you want to see from the audience, how much you hope to achieve and when. An example objective might be “XYZ agency will increase its’ client base by 10% within a 12 month period beginning January 2010.”
The point of setting goals and objectives during the planning stage is to ensure that the PR practitioner realizes the success of a campaign or project. Objectives should be measurable so the PR pro can easily determine whether movement was made in the behavior, attitude or opinion of the audience. Objectives also have four characteristics that you should consider:
- Which audience or public are you targeting
- What is the end result you expect to achieve with that audience
- For what level of accomplishment are you shooting
- What time frame should this occur
Once the objectives for the program have been set, it’s time to determine strategies. This is the how — how will you reach your objectives, with the most efficiency and least cost? This is where you will begin outlining actionable ways to reach your audience and gain the end result for which you are shooting. This is not your tactical activities where you focus on details. Don’t forget that strategies are the how of reaching your objectives — it’s too easy for strategies to become objectives. So keep in mind that this is how. An example might be “XYZ agency will leverage relationships through professional associations to gain new business.”
From here, you focus on tactics. Traditionally where most people head first, tactics are subdivisions of strategies. This is the specifics as to how you will accomplish your objectives, such as “XYZ agency, lead by Jane Doe, will schedule meetings with five professional colleagues during September.” When the effort has been put into the objectives and strategies, the tactics typically fall into place easily.
For new professionals, I strongly encourage you to practice writing plans. It’s a talent I look for when hiring new team members, and I know I’m not alone in that.
Any thoughts to add?