Step 2: Identifying and Revising Communications Goals and Objectives

Strategic communications planning is the foundation for successful and impactful communications and marketing activities. Each month, Vanguard Communications is releasing a new article describing each step of this important process. Read past articles from our Strategic Communications Planning series. Interested in bringing the strategic communications planning process to your organization? Send us a note and let us know how we can help.

Communications goals and measurable objectives are the bedrock of a strong strategic communications plan (SCP). In fact, it’s especially critical to regularly examine these initial plan elements to ensure that they are keeping up with today’s frequently changing circumstances.

Every organization’s mission and vision — as well as its program goals — uniquely inform the goals and objectives of communications strategies. Coupled with a strong situational analysis, these inputs will help shape the initial framework of your plan.

A communications goal is defined as what the organization wants to accomplish with communications. Tactically, the goal provides direction for communications efforts, and only one goal is usually necessary for a one- to three-year SCP.

The goal should have a broad primary outcome, which means that it’s lofty and therefore not always easy to measure. A timely example is “To increase awareness of COVID-19’s impact on the mental health of youth and young adults in the United States.”

The objectives should be measurable steps toward the goal. Try evaluating each proposed objective using the SMART approach — specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound.

It’s common to confuse objectives with strategies when formulating a plan. Remember that objectives are results-oriented and strategies are action-oriented. Objectives also are the basis for evaluating the communications efforts. They point the way toward particular levels of awareness, acceptance or action. Using our example above, an objective could be “Increase social media engagement on Twitter and Instagram by 10%.”

While most plans should look ahead a year or more, it’s important to revise them as internal or external circumstances evolve. For example, if your organization has had to alter services due to the current pandemic, you might need to adjust your communications goal and objectives to account for a new direction, even if it’s temporary.

Establishing strong communications goals and objectives is key to determining the audiences, messages and strategies that will help you achieve them. Stay tuned for our next blog, which will provide more information on the next SCP step — identifying, describing and segmenting audiences.