How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 5 – Objectives

This is the fifth in a series of posts exploring how to create a good communications plan. The last post covered how to examine your stakeholders; this time we’re moving from analysis to planning, looking at your objectives.


Photo of a target As the old saying goes, you need to know where you’re going before you can know how to get there.

Likewise, before you can plan out your strategy… before you even start to think about your media products or event… you need to nail down your objectives.

What Are You Trying To Do?

This section is where you lay out what you’re trying to achieve with this communications plan. Are you trying to educate your customers? Are you trying to build support or create demand? Do you want to get people to do something differently? Maybe you’re trying to defuse a situation. Whatever you want to do, this is where you define it.

Defining Your Objectives

To fall back on an old mantra from business school, your objectives need to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-focused

In practice, I subscribe to the Manager Tools idea that if you hit two parts of a ‘SMART’ objective – the ‘M’ and the ‘T’ – you’re almost guaranteed to hit the others. Make sure your objectives are measurable and time-focused. The specific, achievable and realistic characteristics will emerge from there.

Vague objectives are a common pitfall. Ensure you can measure them and you will be forced to be “specific.” As for “achievable” and “realistic,” if your objectives don’t meet those two criteria you don’t deserve to be writing plans for anything.

Business Objectives Don’t Equal Communications Objectives

One of the hardest parts of this to get your head around is the difference between business objectives and communications objectives. It’s important not to confuse the two. Remember – you can’t take responsibility for the entire success or failure of the program.

In my view, it helps to include the business objectives for the initiative in your comm plan in addition to the communications objectives. Doing this helps you to make sure your plan supports the overall business goals rather than working on its own.

Use Your Analysis

The last three posts in this series were all about analysis. Don’t let this go to waste. Look at your anticipated stakeholder reactions. Consider previous media coverage. Base your objectives in reality.

What’s The Lasting Impression?

If there was one thing you want people to remember about this initiative, what would it be? This doesn’t have to be written like a key message, but it should capture the essence of what you’re doing.

I first encountered the ‘lasting impression’ idea in comm plans a couple of years ago. I like it. It forces you to boil down what you’re doing to one or two sentences that the ‘average’ person could understand. It’s a great way to let the plan’s reader know, in simple terms, what’s going on.

That’s an important thing to remember throughout your plan. You’re writing this to help you plan an appropriate approach to this communications activity but you’re also writing it to help others understand (and approve of) what you’re planning. Bear that in mind throughout your plan.

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is the fifth in a series of posts on communications planning. To read more of the series, check out a summary of the posts so far or pick from the previous posts:

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.