Whether preparing a brief to get a new agency on board or thinking about plans for the year ahead, now is one of the busiest times for planning.
Objectives can sometimes feel like the easy bit. The part that seems quick and obvious to complete, perhaps using a slightly tweaked set of objectives from a previous plan (we’ve all been guilty of doing this!).
But objective setting should be a key part of planning. Objectives are all about defining a purpose – and creating something that internal and external teams can rally around. Investing time really thinking through objectives makes the difference between communications that just drive noise and communications that are business critical.
So… what’s good practice for setting goals and objectives?
The SMART approach has been around in general management thinking since the 1980s:
- Specific– defined goal, challenging.
- Measurable– the indicators and measures used to track if progress is being made.
- Agreed on– achievable and action-orientated.
- Realistic– taking into account the timescales and available resources.
- Time-related– a date for the goal to be achieved, and dates for each objective that supports the goal to be achieved.
But SMART is a very generic, catch-all approach that isn’t specific to communications. Here’s my suggestions on how to create compelling objectives:
- Link to business goals. This sounds blindingly obvious but if objectives are only around things like “being a thought-leader” or “driving more social engagement,” or “get 50% more tier one media coverage” then the impact of communications can only go so far and will not be a board-level budgeting priority.
- Research – and avoid assumptions. Setting new goals should be the trigger to look again at stakeholder audiences: who are they, what’s important to them, how do they see your brand, what role would they like you to play and where do they get their information from?
- Don’t be shy about how you will demonstrate value and ROI. As communications people, we can sometimes be far too reticent about connecting what we do to key business metrics like sales. You can bet that most advertising campaigns will claim metrics like sales uplift in their evaluations.
- Take the opportunity to define roles. Who is responsible for achieving which objectives? How do metrics work between in-house and agency teams?
- Focus and priorities. What’s the split in effort in achieving goals? Is there a particular priority? Are there activities/ campaigns that actually support each objective? Are you maintaining and evolving programmes that will deliver proven success?
If you happen to be preparing a brief and would like an informal chat about how to define powerful objectives, please drop me a line.