THINKPIECE: The strongest PR campaigns must always start withclear, well-defined objectives

While judging a PR campaign competition, I was struck by the

blandness of objectives: "establishing Company X as an industry leader,"

"positioning Company X's president as an industry spokesperson,"

"increasing awareness," or "generating coverage in top-tier media

outlets." If Anne Robinson had judged these award entries, she would

have labeled their objectives "the weakest link" and banished them with

a dismissive "goodbye."

While it's certainly appealing to "establish Company X as an industry

leader," it's superficial and impractical at best. Is it necessarily

reasonable for a particular company to be an industry leader? No! How

can more than one company in a particular industry legitimately claim to

be the leader?

They can't! Such lofty objectives like "establishing Company X as an

industry leader" risks exposing PR execs as wordsmiths without a true

understanding for business, which executives want if they're going to

invite us in, much less listen.

It's also difficult to evaluate success if an objective is posed in

general terms. There are as many criteria for determining leadership

status as there are for increasing awareness. "Generating coverage in

top-tier media outlets" is a more specific goal, but sorely lacking in

focus. What kinds of media coverage are we talking about? What about

quality and quantity of coverage? What results must be achieved?

To shore up our "weakest link," let's begin with a definition. An

objective is a milestone measuring progress toward a goal. A milestone

must be absolutely clear in its intent and easy to measure. Clear

objectives mean the same thing no matter where you are in an

organization and it's often easier to rally support for them among all

concerned. There's also little doubt as to whether a well-written

objective has been attained - that is, whether the PR effort has

succeeded or failed.

A well-crafted PR program objective also:

- States a specific change in opinion or behavior that's supposed to

result from PR activities outlined in the campaign;

- Pinpoints a level of accomplishment, typically in the form of a

percentage decrease or increase;

- Identifies the specific public (or audience) targeted by the PR

effort; and

- Establishes a time frame for realization of the objective.

The unmistakable beauty of a well-defined objective rests in how it

shows that PR execs understand what they do and how to demonstrate

impact. Fluffy, feel-good programs designed to accomplish the

indefinable and immeasurable simply won't suffice.

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