I couldn't agree more. And, I believe this, frankly, is why many PR efforts fail -- they don't have objectives to guide the strategies and tactics!
As a strategist in PR, I often develop the objectives for clients and then ask them to react to them. This frequently is easier and takes less time than asking the clients to articulate the objectives themselves. This is an important service we, as consultants, can and should perform. As they say, it's not rocket science; it's simply a matter of identifying business objectives and determining what communications objectives will support achieving them.
Sometimes clients or agencies will not like this approach because they already know what they want to do. If what they want to do does not support achieving the communications goal that supports the business goal, then they will not have a reason to do what they want. This is perhaps understandable, but poor practice.
I frequently go through what we might call the "increasingly dangerous questions." For example:
- When a client says they want to do a media event, I ask "Why?"
- When they answer "To generate press coverage," I ask "Why?"
- When they respond "To help sell their company's product," I ask:
- "How will the coverage do that?"
- "Do we know who our likely purchasers are?"
- "Do we know that they read or view the media that we are trying to attract to our media event?"
- "Do we know that the message we will put out at the media event will appeal to this target audience?"
Actually, I usually go through these in my head. Then I start recommending to my clients that we do the research to answer some of the questions above and then develop a measurable communications objective. This might be: "Increase awareness of product Y and its benefits from 10% to 20% among married women 26 to 45 years old with children in the household and household incomes of $75,000 to $150,000 annually in the Northeastern United States within the next three months." Our assumption here is that the increase in awareness among this clearly defined target audience will lead to an increase in sales.
If you're interested in more on writing measurable public relations objectives, Linda Hadley, who was at Porter Novelli, and I wrote a paper on this topic with help from the Institute for PR's Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation. Here is the link: PR Objectives White Paper.