I have been judging IABC Gold Quill awards all day today. I am a big fan of IABC’s Gold Quill program, especially the requirement for an excellent work plan as part of an entry. The work plan shows the strategic planning and management that is the underpinning of an entry. This makes the awards program a professional development experience, not a beauty contest.
Here’s what I want all of my students to get right now: to deal with any important communication/PR issue, there are certain steps that must be taken in order for there to be a credible strategic treatment of the issue.
First, you must conduct research to know all you can about the situation your organization is facing. Intuition and guess work won’t cut it. This is usually captured in a situation analysis. For the Gold Quill work plan, it is listed in the need or opportunity section.
Second, once the need/opportunity is understood, the professional communicator/PR practitioner must decide what to do and recommend a course of action. This is best captured by setting goals and objectives. Goals should be broad-brush statements involving things like improving a relationships with a key public. Objectives are more targeted, for they must manifest a goal into reality.
Here’s the problem: all too often communicators/PR practitioners set squishy objectives, like “communicate that we care about employees” or “inform the community about our …” For an objective to have any relevance, it must be SMART, or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive.
Setting measurable objectives is the cornerstone of the strategic communication foundation following research and situation analysis. You simply must set measurable objective in order to be able to conduct meaningful summative evaluation in the end. All too often, squishy objectives can only be followed by summative evaluation that amounts to silliness like, “we got a lot a compliments on the [tactic]” or “the CEO really liked it” or “all of the copies were taken by employees”. These prove nothing.
If you are to claim any meaningful result of your communication/PR strategy and subsequent tactical activity, then you must state clearly and in a measurable way what the activity was to have accomplished in the first place. Make it SMART.
Meaningful, measurable objectives + well-thought-out, appropriate strategy and well-executed tactics = meaningful, measurable results.