One smart PR pro told me years ago that even the best road map is useless without a destination. Because so many communicators are struggling to understand the role of strategy in a world of fascinating tactics, it can seem like the universe is throwing map after map to us, shouting “you need this right now!”
When I step back from “being strategic” (quite a trick for someone once called, with some derision, “strategy boy”) it is no exaggeration to say, echoing the travel metaphor, that the best strategy is useless without an objective.
Strategic objectives need three things: 1) a benchmark. You need to look back to see where you’ve been. 2) A target. You need to look ahead and see where you’re going. 3) A time period. You need to articulate how long it’s going to take to get from where you were/are to where you want to be. If you’re missing any of those things, chances are good that you don’t have a strategic objective.
The trick is, too often, we set objectives with no clear understanding of where we are, let alone where we were. That’s where research comes in. It’s right out of PR 101 — start with research before you launch a campaign — and we find lots of reason not to do the research. Sometimes it’s related to cost, sometimes to our own skillsets. We like to think of ourselves as creative geniuses, unencumbered by such trivialities. This attitude is especially prevalent in media relations, where our relationships and seat-of-the-pants skills can mean so much in a crisis; when things go right in our activities, that can reinforce the perception that PR is art, rather than science.
Of course, our “gut” is merely the application of our accumulation of experience, both in terms of time and in terms of education. We think we know what our employees, or our customers, for example, know/think/feel about our organization, when we could remove any uncertainty with some simple research.
But, I digress — the objective-setting process is even more important when considering social media. Too many organizations are jumping in without a clear idea of what they want to accomplish. I could even make a credible claim that everyday PR objectives are frequently omitted! Or, at the very least, they get terribly squishy - if I hear one more time that the objective of a PR program is "awareness," I'm going to scream.
Make your objectives specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. It's just SMART!
Posted on Mon, April 6, 2015
by Sean Williams