In every business case, there is an objective. Those might include generating a profit, passing legislation, or giving back to the community. To advance the organization, those in positions of responsibility require a clear understanding of its goals in order to make a meaningful and measurable contribution. At a time when PR aspires to makes its case for primacy in driving business outcomes, why do so many departments and agencies invest precious resources without the benefit of solid objectives?
The Institute for Public Relations has just updated its guidelines to provide simple templates and equip PR pros with the tools necessary to help their organization make a business case through proper objectives setting. The Guidelines for Measurable Public Relations Objectives offers three rules:
Objectives should be meaningful. To ensure relevancy, obtain a clear understanding of your organization's business goals and, working with clients, negotiate the terms by which achieving PR goals will relate to the enterprise's success.
Objectives should be reasonable. Everyone within the PR objectives-setting process has to be realistic about what a PR program can accomplish with fixed resources and within a specific time frame.
PR objectives should be quantifiable. To ensure unambiguous understanding, an objective must answer the following:
Determine a desired output or outcome and the method by which it will be measured.
Specify one or many target audiences.
Denote the degree to which the metric should change.
Stipulate a time frame by which the results meet or exceed the objective.
Why doesn't every PR person set good objectives? Answers vary; there are those who are not required to set objectives, those who choose not to, and those who don't know how. But there is a growing body of knowledge to counter the notion that "we don't know how," "we don't know why," and "we choose not to."
While each component of the PR process is essential, setting objectives is the foundation: Objectives are not destiny; they provide direction. Objectives are not commands; they are commitments. Objectives do not determine the future, but they do provide a framework to marshal our resources for the future.
Mark Weiner is CEO of Prime Research in North America and coauthor of Guidelines for Setting Measurable Public Relations Objectives, along with David Rockland, SVP of research at Ketchum and consultant Forrest Anderson.