Do you know your communications objectives?
When you write a business plan one of the first steps you take is to set up projections of your one year and five year goals. It is the same when you go to set up life and personal goals. In business school they teach you that these goals should be SMART or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Why is it then, that when it comes to communications, so many people want to skip the goal setting stage and jump right into the action plan? How can you measure the success of your campaign if you never set up what you were trying to achieve?
There are four main objectives: To inform, to persuade, to motivate and to build mutual understanding. You need to know which one you are trying to achieve before you pick out the tools you are going to use. Instead of thinking “Oh! I must be on Twitter!” or “I have to have a business Facebook page!” or “Wouldn’t a billboard be perfect?” you should consider who you are trying to reach and why.
NOTE: Communication goals are not business or sales goals.
While it may seem moving consumers through the Marketing Funnel would be the hardest objective to achieve, it can actually be more difficult to simply reach and inform everyone who needs to know the information you are presenting. For example, the government has to let the public know about law or policy changes, just as major corporations have to tell their employees about new rules and regulations. The point of these communications is not to change minds or behaviours, but rather just to reach everyone who can be affected by the information given. Sometimes not getting the right information out to the right people at the right time can have disastrous effects, extreme weather for example.
Communications SMART Goal: To inform 75% of all Canadian Citizens before the beginning of April that April 30th 2014 is the deadline to file taxes this year.
Persuasion is the objective that most people think of when talking about communications and marketing. You are trying to change someone’s behaviour, usually a purchasing behaviour for a product or service. But persuasion can extend to changing how people feel about an idea, an event or other people. There are many different schools of thought on how to effectively influence someone’s “beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, and behaviours” but I’ll let you read more about that on wikipedia. Examples of non-stereotypical “non-buying” persuasion would be Alberta One-Call who main communications goal is to persuade people to call their service before they dig. The service is free, and could be life-saving. So while informing people that the service exists is important, persuading people to use the service is the main goal.
Communication SMART Goal: To persuade 25% more Albertans to use the Alberta One Call Service by calling or clicking at least two days before they dig.
Motivation as a communications goal is mainly about inspiring others to take on new challenges, to stand up for what they believe in, and to be the change they want to see. An example of this would be an internal communications campaign focused on motivating employees to work harder, be better, and generally care more about the organization they work for.
Communications SMART Goal: To increase employee engagement and motivation by 20% in 2014.
To Build Mutual Understanding
Building mutual understanding is a lot like informing. The purpose of the goal is to ensure that everyone involved has an informed opinion, one that is based on knowing and understanding all sides of the issue so that a solution or agreement can be found between various parties. Often Oil and Gas companies create entire “Community Relations” or “Aboriginal Relations” departments specifically for building mutual understanding and dialogue between the company and the community it is doing business in.
Communications SMART Goal: To build mutual understanding with a First Nations Community about the processes, procedures and outcomes of the Pipeline project before, during and after completion.
It is just as important to define your communication objectives as it is to define your business ones. Just because they are communication goals doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be SMART goals, and ones that you can measure and define. It is important to know your purpose, and what you are reaching for so that when you get there you will understand just how successful you were.
What are your company’s communication objectives? How do you ensure they use SMART goals? Let me know in the comments below. If you want to know more, or to learn about turning your communications objectives into communications tactics and results, contact me for a free consultation. If you’d like to see more weekly communications information, subscribe!