When writing a marketing or communications plan, do you get confused about what is a goal and what is an objective? Many people do.
A goal is an overarching, longer-term outcome to achieve. Example: You want to be a good golfer.
An objective is something concrete, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound: You want to carve 10 strokes off your golf handicap by the end of 2013. I did say “achievable” and “realistic,” didn’t I? Maybe it’s more like five strokes.
Now comes the work. There are activities or tactics to undertake to help you meet your objective: take golf lessons once a week for six weeks; hit a bucket of balls twice a week for three months at the driving range; go to the chipping and putting greens once a week for 12 weeks; play in a few competitive tournaments.
I want to scream every time I see “increase public awareness” listed as an objective in a public relations plan. How in the heck would you know if you achieved this? How do you plan to measure “awareness” and by when and how much? This objective is not very “SMART.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines SMART objectives as:
S – Specific (concrete, detailed, and well defined)
M – Measurable (numbers, quantities, percentages)
A – Achievable (feasible and easy to put into action)
R – Realistic (considers constraints such as resources, cost, personnel, time frame)
T – Time-bound (a time frame to define how long it will take to meet the objective)
Obtain 50 new blog subscribers who are Arkansas parents of children ages birth to five years old by December 31, 2013, is an example of a “SMART” objective.
The CDC offers a planning template for SMART objectives to help guide you through the process of defining goals and objectives.
The Universal Accreditation Board, the organization that administers the exam process for earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR), explains the difference in goals and objectives in a similar manner as the CDC. In its curriculum for public relations planning, the board defines goals as longer term, broad, and more global – commonly described as the desired outcome of a plan of action.
Objectives are shorter term and define what behavior, attitude or opinion you want to achieve from specific audiences, how much to achieve and when.
Objectives are shorter term and define what behavior, attitude or opinion you want to achieve from specific audiences, how much to achieve and when. Think in terms of the attitude or action you desire — the end result. In defining objectives, the specified expected measurable level of accomplishment or outcome and the time frame must be clear.
So why does defining your goal and objectives in a way that is meaningful matter? It allows you to measure the success or failure of your marketing or communications plan — or your quest to become a better golfer.