At the start of a new year, everyone is focused on the goals. For many people it’s prime time to reflect, think about your aspirations, and try to get organized. For others, it can send you down a process rabbit hole that leaves you more exhausted than focused.
And for public relations professionals, especially those of us working on progressive advocacy campaigns, this political and media climate (Government shutdown! White supremacy! Beto’s teeth! Oh my!) doesn’t exactly lend itself to heaps of downtime to get centered.
But this is all the more reason to make sure you take the time during the goal-setting process to make sure your public relations goals are measurable. Not only will this help you prioritize and make quick decisions when it’s time for a rapid response, it will also help with your evaluation and growth process the following year.
Measurable goals help your organization create benchmarks - that when once met - can be used to brag about in funding reports and partnership-building. You can’t tell a donor that you’ve reached double the audience you expected if you don’t have a goal set for what that looks like in the first place.
So, how do we do it?
The first thing to know is that every one of your public relations goals should serve your organization’s institutional goals. The second thing to remember is that goals are not the same as tactics or actions. Aside from that, each of your goals should be able to answer a set of questions: who, what, how much, and when. Let’s walk through some examples.
There are basically three categories of measurable public relations goals: outputs, outcomes, and impacts.
Outputs are the channels through which you reach your target audiences. They can look like earned or paid media coverage, mentions on social media, or traffic to your experts web page.
One important thing to consider with outputs is that it’s hard to come up with goals for them if you haven’t already been tracking them in the previous year. If that’s the case, make this year’s goal tailored toward creating a reliable tracking system.
Let’s assume you have that system in place and therefore a jumping off point for your outputs.
Now, consider this theoretical institutional goal: “By 2020 we want our organization to be considered among the top thought leaders on climate change.” How do we know we’ve achieved this through public relations work? One way might be to show you’ve increased your influence over journalists and they consider your climate policy wonks as expert sources.
Now, how can we turn that idea of what we want into something measurable? Let’s answer those questions we mentioned before.
Who is our target audience? “journalists”
What does success look like? “We have more journalists visiting our climate policy experts page on our website”
How much? “100 more page views per month than last year”
When? “By July 2019”
Now, put it all together: “By July 2019, we will have 100 more page views per month from journalists on our climate policy experts page.”
Notice that when we’re forming this goal, we’re not laying out how we’re going to achieve it. For example, “Each week we will produce 6 sponsored ads targeting journalists,” is a good action to take toward achieving that goal, but when you’re forming your annual goals, you want to focus on the ends, rather than the means.
Outcomes are typically broken down into five categories: awareness, understanding, attitudes, preference, and behavior. Basically, they are the things we want our target audiences to do as a result of our public relations work.
Let’s think back to that same institutional goal of our organization as a top thought leader on climate change. In terms of outcomes, maybe that looks like key stakeholders using the language your organization uses in climate-related proposals.
After going through our four questions, a more measurable goal might be: “Democratic party leaders will use the phrase ‘just transition’ at least once in the renewable energy bill they’re putting forward in September.”
Impacts are the results that your communications work brings to your organization’s business goals, typically in the form of dollars made or saved, but could also include things like staff expansion and retention.
Back to our example. You can’t be the thought leader on climate if you’re not attracting the best experts in the field to pitch to press. Fast forward through our goal-making process and you can come up with something like:
“Recruit two new researchers who have connections to grassroots climate movements in the rust belt within four months.”
There you have it: three measurable public relations goals designed to serve one of your organization’s greater institutional goals.
The key with any goals you set, whether they’re public relations goals or personal spiritual ones, is to be as specific as possible when answering those questions, always consider your organization’s goals and key stakeholders, and focus on the ends before the means.
And remember to check in on your goals periodically throughout the year -- there are any number of things that could call for a shift in your strategy. Plus, if you’re continually evaluating your progress, you won’t be scrambling at the start of every new year like me.
Content Manager, Three(i) Creative Communications