Key Concepts – Goals, Objectives, and Position Statements
For all three readings, the main thrust of what we learned this week is that you have to be specific when defining what you want, and where you want your organization to go.
Instead of having a vague, crystal ball-style idea that things will somehow improve, the jello has to be nailed to the wall.
Smith says it rather concisely: (Page 95) “… goals are general and global while objectives are specific.”
Goals are a kind of global idea of how a problem should be solved. E. g. if the problem is world hunger, then the goal is to either feed more people or have fewer people to feed. There aren’t a lot of other ways you can go with that. But an objective is far more specific, so an objective is more like educating 20% of all women of childbearing age in ten countries about birth control and marrying later, and doing so by the end of calendar year 2019.
For the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration (ILSC), the organization’s mission and goals are twofold, to spread the Small World Initiative (SWI is a learning program whereby students gather soil samples in order to help discover new sources for antibiotics) to more schools, and to test, track, and treat cases of pediatric HIV in Ghana. These are more like task or relationship management goals (Smith, page 96), as opposed to relationship management, with the task goal being to treat pediatric HIV and the relationship goal being to spread the reach of the SWI.
With reference to the Small World Initiative, an awareness objective could be to foster and maintain contacts with fifty decision makers in key high schools by the end of 2016. Whereas an action objective could be to spread the Small World Initiative to high schools in ten states by the end of 2016. Both types of objectives are explicit, time-definite, and challenging yet attainable (Smith, Pages 101 – 103).
For Ghana, the awareness objective could be to foster and maintain contacts with fifty decision makers in key hospitals or towns by the end of 2016. An action objective could be to gain access to test newborns in ten towns by the end of calendar year 2016. As with the SWI objectives, these are goal-rooted and measurable activities.
The ILSC either meets these objectives, or it doesn’t. There is no in-between. This is why objectives must be meaningful, reasonable and quantifiable – this way, you know when you’ve succeeded. Or if you still have a ways to go.
Positioning statements are different. Per Smith (Page 95), “A positioning statement is a general expression of how an organization wants its publics to distinguish it vis a vis its competition.” For the SWI, the positioning statement can be loftier, and look a lot more like, “With the Small World Initiative, your students can be the change you wish to see in the world of discovering new antibiotics.” For the project in Ghana, it could be, “Stopping the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa begins at birth. The ILSC aims to test, track, and treat every child at risk, until all children are well.”
Social Media-based recommendations
The Barbaric reading, in contrast, was strictly about social media goals and objectives. As Barbaric says, “Here are some examples of marketing objectives to get you started:
- Increase Reach
- Increase Conversions
- Increase Retention
- Increase Credibility
- Maintain Visibility
- Develop Stronger Relationships With Stakeholders”
The strength of this article is that it looks at social media for what it is. Organizations usually need to sell a product or service. Social media can be directly tied to that, but Barbaric is right to focus more on what social media specifically does. Likes, shares, comments, and followers do not necessarily directly lead to sales, but they do lead to increased reach and credibility, all of the earlier parts of the top of a sales funnel. Social media may also help with conversions. One of social media’s biggest strengths is that it is mainly objective and measurable. If a goal is increased awareness, then an objective can be to increase reach by 15% by the end of the next calendar quarter. This is a yes or no question when the time is up – did the organization make it, or not?
Putting it all together
Anderson, Hadley, Rockland & Weiner (Page 5) all offer six reasons for setting clear, concise and measurable objectives in public relations.
- “Objectives create a structure for prioritization.”
- “Objectives reduce the potential for disputes before, during, and after the program.”
- “Objectives focus resources to drive performance and efficiency.”
- “Objectives help create successful programs by identifying areas for prescriptive change and continual improvement.”
- “Objectives set the stage for evaluation by making it easier for sponsors and team-members to determine if the PR program met or exceeded expectations.”
- “Objectives link the PR objective to the business objective.”
Anderson, et al seem to be more focused on specifics than Barbaric. Even with social media’s objectivity, there are still some nebulous concepts being put forth by Barbaric. After all what does it mean to “develop stronger relationships with stakeholders”? That is not a measurable statement at all. Stronger relationships are a matter of some interpretation. Does it mean that funding comes more quickly, or there’s more of it? Are jobs secure?
At the same time, the Anderson, et al reading was about any sort of objectives, not just those tied to social media. The readings all work well together – Anderson, et al and Smith give the reasons for setting clear objectives, and then Barbaric defines them in the context of social media and public relations.
Goals are where the organization wants to go; objectives are the roadmap.