Planning for Impact
by Frank Williams
Over the years, I’ve heard clients and colleagues offer a number of reasons why they want to engage in a public relations or marketing communication campaign. When I ask about their goals, the responses often center on outputs like sending a certain number of press releases, posting a certain number of items on social media, and so forth. Instead of starting with outputs, you should begin by discussing the desired outcomes. Put another way, you should begin by considering what impact you want your public relations program to have.
The first step is to establish your big-picture public relations goals. As you begin, please set aside everything you’ve been taught about “SMART” goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-sensitive); we’ll cover those details in a future post. For purposes of planning for impact, you need to look at the big picture and define your desired future state of being, what you want your organization to be in the future. From a communication perspective, you should consider how you want to be viewed by your key publics.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of a fictitious trade association, the N.C. Widget Manufacturers Association, comprised of widget manufacturers throughout North Carolina. The NCWMA has been struggling to define itself in the marketplace, retain its current members and attract new members. The association’s leadership conducted a member survey and learned that its members see limited value in most of the group’s offerings and activities, and those outside of the Raleigh area where the association is headquartered feel disconnected from the group. Furthers, members are largely oblivious to the threats their industry faces in the legislature and unaware of the NCWMA’s advocacy efforts on their behalf.
The NCWMA’s big-picture public relations goals might include:
- Position NCWMA as the leading advocate for widget manufacturers in North Carolina.
- Position NCWMA as the trusted source for information on the widget industry in North Carolina.
- Foster public support for the widget industry and translate that into support among legislators and regulators.
These goals focus on desired outcomes and impacts, not processes and tactics. They zero in on the big-picture change your public relations program should bring about.
Plan for impact, and don’t become so focused on the trees that you fail to see the forest.