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Setting the right communication objectives

Embed communication into every aspect of your business

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As a business owner, you’ll no doubt have a plethora of objectives you want to achieve from a business perspective. They may be short, medium or long term that address a variety of aspects involving the growth and success of your business. With communication being embedded within every aspect of your business, setting communication objectives can be important to your organisation’s overall business strategy.

the hIERARCHY OF OBJECTIVE SETTING

When it comes to communication, the concept of ‘persuasion’ often comes in to play. With this in mind, there are three key areas for comms specialists to focus on when building communication objectives: creating awareness, forming attitudes and opinions, and influencing behaviour. Each of these areas affect the growth of your business.

Cognitive objectives

Building and creating awareness normally involves getting your target market to think about your product or service, as well as trying to promote a level of understanding. These are cognitive objectives; they deal with goals that revolve around gaining attention, comprehension and the retention of information.

Affective objectives

Objectives that deal with influencing your target market to form a particular attitude or opinion are affective. Your goal is to affect their interest, acceptance or rejection of a topic, which means you’re ultimately working with how people react to the information you give them.

Conative objectives

Probably one of the most difficult objectives to achieve are conative ones; They revolve around behaviour and are goals that result in your target market acting in a specific way. It is far easier to get someone to think about something, than actively change their behaviour.

Take the stigma around mental health. Awareness is growing to destigmatise mental health within the UK, with PR campaigns to change the attitudes and opinions of the public ongoing. However, out of the three types of objectives, changing how people act towards mental health and its sufferers is a harder objective to achieve.

a few rules to follow

Now that you have an understanding of the type of objectives you can set, there are some worthwhile concepts to consider during objective setting. The most important being that any objective should support your organisation’s objectives.

Keep it communications based

Firstly, limit your communications objectives to what can be achieved by communications alone. It’s easy to set an objective related to the growth of the business, or percentage of sales of your product or service, however this is outside the remit of communications and public relations. Although, your communication objectives should always support an organisational objective.

Be specific and outcomes focussed

Being vague around the who, what, when, and how of the objective won’t get you anywhere. Be precise and specific. Not only does it make the process a lot simpler and easier to manage and understand, it allows for you to identify the outcomes and monitor whether you’ve been successful, not to mention evaluate your process too.

Don't forget the research

All your objectives should be evidence-based as a given. Creating an objective from sound research will make it more realistic and achievable. After all, it is less likely that you’ll be successful with an unrealistic objective, than a more modest one that’s backed by research you can benchmark against.

SMART COMMUNICATION OBJECTIVES

Like with any objectives you set for your business, your communication objectives need to be SMART: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Be specific in what goal you want to reach. Ensure you have the ability to measure your progress; creating a benchmark for your business goals will help. Be realistic in what you want to achieve, and make sure it’s relevant to your organisation and its aspirations. And finally, set a time frame (again, being realistic!) to reach your goal. 

One thing to remember is to evaluate your communication strategy and its objectives. Assess what worked and what didn’t and use that information to improve in the future.

This article was first published in the Suffolk Free Press, Thursday 10 January 2019.

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