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The 'Weakest Link' In Public Relations
Fuzzy objectives? Good bye!
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by Mitchell Friedman, APR

While judging a public relations campaign competition, I was struck by the blandness of objectives: "Establishing company X as an industry leader"; "Positioning company X's president as an industry spokesperson"; "Increasing awareness"; or "Generating coverage in top-tier media outlets."  

If television-show host Anne Robinson had judged these award entries, she would have labeled their objectives "the weakest link" and banished them with a dismissive "goodbye."

While it's certainly appealing to "establish company X as an industry leader," it's superficial and impractical at best.  Is it necessarily reasonable for a particular company to be an industry leader?  No!  How can more than one company in a particular industry legitimately claim to be the leader?  They can't!  Such lofty objectives like "establishing company X as an industry leader" risks exposing public relations professionals as wordsmiths without a true understanding for business, which executives want if they're going to invite us in, much less listen.

It's also difficult to evaluate success if an objective is posed in general terms.  There are many criteria for determining leadership status, as there are for "increasing awareness." "Generating coverage in top-tier media outlets" is a more specific, but sorely lacking.  What kinds of media coverage are we talking about?  What about quality and quantity of coverage?  What results must be achieved?

To shore up our "weakest link," let's begin with a definition.  An objective is a milestone measuring progress toward a goal.  A milestone must be absolutely clear in its intent and easy to measure.  Clear objectives mean the same thing no matter where you are in an organization, and often are easier to rally support among all concerned.  There's also little doubt as to whether a well-written objective has been attained -- that is, whether the public relations effort has succeeded or failed.

A well-crafted public relations program objective also:

  • States a specific change in opinion or behavior that's supposed to result from public relations activities outlined in the campaign;

  • Pinpoints a level of accomplishment, typically in the form of a percentage decrease or increase;

  • Identifies the specific public (or audience) targeted by the public relations effort; and  

  • Establishes a time frame for realization of the objective.   

The unmistakable beauty of an objective so defined rests in how it shows that public relations professionals understand what they do and how to demonstrate impact.  Fluffy, feel-good programs designed to accomplish the indefinable and immeasurable simply won't suffice. 


Mitchell Friedman, APR provides consulting, training, and coaching
in writing, media interview preparation, presentation skills,
Internet public relations, and other communication skills. 
For more information, see http://www.mitchellfriedman.com.

Copyright 2001 Mitchell Friedman, APR
(Reprinted with permission)






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