Most of the time, setting objectives is the weakest part in communications planning. Usually public relations and communication pros set vague objectives. It's hard to evaluate such objectives and they don’t prove the worth of a PR campaign or communication programme. As the Barcelona Principles state, ‘goal setting and measurement are fundamental aspects of any public relations campaign’. This short article discusses the difference between goals and objectives, the notions of SMART objectives and the hierarchy of objectives, and why one should set objectives.
Goal versus Objective
Often the terms ‘goals’ and ‘objectives’ are used interchangeably. However, these terms have different meaning. Smith (2005: 69-72) states: ‘A goal is a statement rooted in the organisation’s mission or vision. Using everyday language, a goal acknowledges the issue and sketches out how the organisation hopes to see it settles. A goal is stated in general terms and lacks measure, these will come later in the objectives.’ An objective, on the other hand, is a clear and measurable statement that emerges from the organisation’s goals and is the end-point of a public relations campaign or communication programme. Also, several objectives can be based on a single goal.
When setting objectives, many identify SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. Although they should be regarded as an ideal to aspire to but most of the time it's challenging to set public relations or communication objectives whose achievement can be controlled. Smith (1998: 43) gives a couple of examples of SMART objectives setting:
· to announce a sale and generate 70% awareness one day before the sale starts;
· to increase awareness from 30% to 50% within 8 weeks of the campaign launch among women aged 25-41.
Hierarchy of Objectives
Further, when PR pros talk about public relations objective setting, they should consider the notion of hierarchy of objectives. According to Stacks and Bowen (2011), any public relations campaign has three objectives: informational, motivational and behavioural. First, the target audience or stakeholders should receive and understand information. Second, this information should motivate them to perform an intended action. Third, they should change their behaviour.
Last but not least, public relations and communication pros should always remember the connection between the outcome or impact evaluation and the identified objectives. Evaluation should be considered at the beginning of every PR campaign or communication programme since it links directly back to the established objectives. Thus, with clearly identified objectives at the beginning of a campaign or programme, one can easily measure and evaluate its effectiveness and impact.
Article written by Liudmila Kazak,
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