Setting Communications Objectives

A planned effort to influence public opinion is one of the strongest definitions of Public Relations we know.

Planning is a management necessity in successful corporations, with most businesses routinely assembling five-year plans, including support planning down to its lowest operating levels.

The Public Relations function, internal or via agency, should not be exempt from this critical process. Too frequently, this annual process is viewed as simply an update of the prior year’s campaign, without regard to the current business and economic environments.

At Stern And Company, planning is one of five steps that we follow in developing an overall communications program:

  • Fact finding about the client, its charter, products, markets, audiences, competition, corporate and marketing objectives, and strategies behind those objectives.
  • Research in order to determine the foundation for the plan. As we’re seeking to influence public opinion, we must first determine what those opinions are.
  • Planning, which is based on the fact finding and research.
  • Communication, the implementation of the plan.
  • Measurement, to evaluate the results achieved against desired objectives.

An annual public relations plan does not mean that the prior year’s program must be discarded entirely. However, it does mean that the world is dynamic; full of change and to obtain the best opportunity for the desired public relations results, plans must be re-examined and recast based on the changing world.

Drawing on our rather extensive backgrounds as journalists, at Stern And Company we rearrange the old saw “who, what, when, where, why and how,” to best serve our clients in the annual planning process.

Why is the client communicating? The Why means setting acute objectives. By starting with meaningful objectives, and ensuring that everything in the plan relates to those objectives, it is ensured that the plan is on the right track.

Who does the client want to reach? We always effect a careful analysis of our client’s publics. Not doing so yields one of the most devastating errors in Public Relations: Communicating for communications sake.

Where will the client communicate? The various channels of communication that will be used.

How will the client say it? This becomes the overall strategy and is supported by a series of action-oriented communications programs.

When will communications take place? This is the timetable which disciplines the entire plan, as timing can mean success or failure of a program.

The Stern And Company view is that the discernment of a client’s communications objectives is the most critical, and frequently the most challenging element of the annual Public Relations plan.

The objectives of a comprehensive and strategic communications plan must relate to those corporate objectives to the interests and concerns of the client’s audiences. The communications strategies are then used to influence public opinion to achieve those objectives.

Public relations agencies all too frequently treat the setting of objectives rather cavalierly, merely dashing out general statements of goals.

As mentioned earlier, Stern And Company relates its strategic communications objectives to the overall objectives of the client. The communications objectives must be clearly defined, comprising no ambiguities. They must be specific and quantifiable. Finally, objectives must be attainable and measurable.

Shy away from communications objectives that are framed in such broad terms that they are impossible to achieve. Clear measurement must be built into every communications objective, and measurement must be quantified and ascribed to a specific time period.

Peter Drucker said, “The definition of business management is that it is an economic organ…every, act, every decision, every deliberation of management has economic performance as its first dimension. The business manager can justify his existence only by the economic results he produces.Public Relations agencies and client side personnel are no different from other corporate managers: If they’re not measurably contributing to the bottom line, they’re just part of the landscape.

About Stern And Company

Stern And Company, based in Las Vegas, develops and implements strategic corporate communications, financial relations and marketing programs for public and private companies.

All of our professionals have extensive senior-level experience as financial journalists with major publications or as communications executives at leading major corporations. Our firm’s practice areas include corporate and financial relations, public relations, strategic and product marketing, crisis communications, transaction communications, restructurings, bankruptcies and litigation support.

Stern And Company
Strategic Communications
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