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
- 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.