Communication Planning Using SMART Objectives

Article 3 min
Once you've established your communication plan goal, you'll be ready to set your objectives. Your goal is your desired outcome, and your objectives are the measurable steps you'll take to get there.

Your objectives should be SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Well-defined objectives will guide your strategy, tactics, themes and messages.

Setting objectives allows planners to define the end-state in advance. These objectives are both the mileposts you'll use to guide you to the goal and the measuring sticks you'll use to determine if your strategy, messages, or tactics need adjustment.

To set manageable objectives that fulfill the goal, focus your objectives on the intended effect using SMART criteria. Explore each element to learn more.

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Elements of a SMART Objective

'S' stands forSpecific

Set an objective that is specific to what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your objective. Indicate the specific change you want to see in terms of action, behavior or direction, and how much in that direction you want to go. This should not be a detailed list of how you’re going to meet an objective, but should include an answer to the ‘w’ questions: who, what, where, when and why.

'm' stands forMeasurable

The objective should be measurable, which means you need to establish the metrics you will use to measure your progress.

Deeper analysis looks beyond just the number of media items and into the content of that coverage to provide data for objectives. Measuring relationships is crucial to illustrating success. Counting actual interactions to show a trend or conducting an in-depth media analysis allows PA professionals to assess support for partnerships.

In your objective, ensure you have a measurement for every type of change your commander wants whether it is attitude, knowledge or behavior. For example, if your commander wants a behavioral change, make sure you have a behavioral measurement.

'A' stands forAchievable

Focus on writing achievable objectives. These should challenge PA practices, but be obtainable and relevant to your command's mission. Think about how to accomplish the objective and if you have the necessary tools. If you don’t, consider what it would take to get them.

'R' stands forRelevant

Relevant objectives answer the questions: "Should it be done?" "Why?" and "What will be the impact?" The objective should align with the communication strategy implementation plan and the mission's objectives or intent in order to be relevant.

'T' stands forTime-Bound

Objectives should be time-bound. Set a deadline for results and provide a target date for all deliverables.

A SMART Example

To write a SMART objective, determine how much you want to improve an outcome by what amount and by what date. A sample campaign objective might be to:

Increase media coverage of the U.S. contributing to stability in the South China Sea by 5% over a three-month period.

In this SMART objective, each factor is represented:

  • "Increase media coverage of the U.S. contributing to stability in the South China Sea" is focused on improving a specific outcome.
  • "5%" is a measurable amount.
  • "Increase media coverage" is both achievable and relevant.
  • "over a three-month period" is stating the specific time to achieve results.

This is effective because the stakeholders and/or key publics we are trying to reach are informed by the media to change their knowledge. Once achieved, it will fulfill the communication plan objective and align with commander's intent.

A SMART objective puts everyone in the chain of command on the same page. It should map out what success looks like.

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