Many companies treat public relations objectives and goals as the same thing. Others view goals as broad, higher-level statements, such as stating that a plan’s goal is aimed at reputation management. Once the goals are determined, specific objectives are set. That step is common for those who are new to PR as they learn how a plan should flow. The important thing is that objectives meet the “SMART” test -- specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-focused -- while the goals reflect the campaign vision.

Setting Goals

If you decide to lay out broad goals for your campaign, make sure they are tied to your company’s mission statement. This demonstrates that public relations activities are not happening independently and highlights PR's connection your organization’s success. The three broad PR goals are management of reputation, relationships and tasks. Thus, your campaign should be geared toward enhancing your company’s image; creating, fostering or improving relationships; or accomplishing something more specific, such as increasing public support.

Creating Objectives

In addition to meeting the SMART test, PR objectives must be rooted in the campaign goals, be challenging enough to justify the cost and effort of the campaign, and have approval of management or of the client. PR objectives have three levels: awareness, acceptance and action. The campaign should contain at least one from each of these levels, and often you will have several. For example, increasing media awareness is a very common PR objective.

Choosing a Level

If your company is fairly young or is introducing a new product, objectives should be largely geared to awareness. You need to create media awareness before you can reasonably expect the media to write about you, which is an action objective. You need to brief and educate analysts on the features of your products or services, and you need to introduce your product to your target audience. You can gauge awareness both formally and informally. For example, if you call a reporter and he recognizes your name or your company’s name, that’s an informal assessment of awareness.

Conducting Research

Selecting the correct objectives is important for the rest of the PR plan. Strategies and tactics are chosen based on the objectives. For example, if an objective is to increase awareness among trade publications, an industry press tour or media workshop may be part of the tactics. Before committing resources to these activities, do a pre-campaign awareness survey. Trade publications may have heard about your company through industry grapevines and the awareness could be at a higher level than you think.