As public relations and marketing professionals, one of the biggest mistakes we see businesses make is setting poor goals. A consistent failure to reach goals is also one of the most common reasons that businesses reach out to agencies like The PRIME Factory for help. Unfortunately, at that point, the goals have already gone unreached, and a lot of time and resources toward something that was likely designed to fail from the outset, have already been exhausted.

If you think that sounds harsh, you’re half right. The poor designing of goals is the biggest reason that goals fail. But why? Goals are big-picture, long-term statements. Goals are meant to be used as a guide, a destination point, goals do not provide the directions. Goals do not include measurable results, a timeframe, a specified audience, tactics or a plan for evaluation. Goals are important, but goals are not enough.

From goals, organizational leaders need to create plans designed to meet or exceed the goals set. Setting the goal is the first step to success, but the steps that follow goal-setting are every bit, if not more important, than the goal.

After setting goals, you define your target audience and then move on to the objectives. One goal can have several objectives. Objectives are shorter-term and define what behavior/attitude/opinion you want to achieve from who, when, and by how much. So, if a goal is to become an industry leader, then an objective might be: to increase sales by 20% among new customers within the next three months.

The above objective is an outcome objective because it changes something and requires high-level strategic thinking and planning. If you’re setting an objective to measure impressions, or media hits, that’s an output objective and those objectives do not measure effectiveness. Counting impressions cannot inform you that the company has become an industry leader.

The objectives then inform the strategies. The strategies describe how you will reach your objectives in non-specific broad terms. The strategies inform the tactics which describe how you will implement your plan in order to reach the objectives, which will ultimately help you reach your goals. Finally, the activities are the specific things you will do to carry out the strategies. This can include something like posting on Facebook three times per day.

The title of this blog is how to set and reach goals. The key is not to stop at setting the goals. If you want to reach your goals, you have to move on to creating the objectives, strategies, tactics, and activities that are going to help you reach the goal. Then, you have to evaluate your efforts so that you can clearly say whether or not the goal was met, based on the measurable objectives you set.

Setting goals is the first step, but reaching goals is an ongoing strategic process that requires public relations expertise and working in tandem with multiple departments and people. The goals should inform all of the business operations and can be used for both internal and external improvement. More information about setting goals and executing strategic PR campaigns can be found in PRSA’s 10-step planning process. Agencies like The PRIME Factory can be valuable assets for helping businesses set goals and create strategic plans designed to meet or exceed goals.

By: Stephanie Smith, Partner