If you’ve reached this page, you have been part of one of the oldest arguments in planning, perhaps more so, in communications campaign planning. Since I hate arguments, I happily provide you the answers to end the debate.
Objectives are statements expressing a mission, a purpose or a standard. If articulated properly, you achieve your objectives within a defined time-frame, the right staffing, and a reasonable budget. Generally, an objective is broader in scope than a goal. An objective may comprise several goals. For many, objectives and goals are the same thing, and honestly, I don’t have a problem with that.
You should write objectives as SMART, a system championed by Peter Drucker in his 1954 seminal work, The Practice of Management. Some consultants have adapted Drucker’s original system – SMAAART, for example. Ignore them. Also, I consider good objectives to integral to a campaign’s success, I’ve written a longer post on this acronym here: How To Write SMART Objectives.
- Specific – A precise outcome
- Measurable – A defined and objective figure to demonstrate that the objective has been achieved
- Achievable – Realistic objectives, given all resources
- Relevant – Directly linked to the overall goal
- Time Specific – The expectations of when the achievement should be reached
Oftentimes overlooked, Issues are imperative to understand if you’re trying to achieve your objective or goal. Specifically, issues are the obstacles between the current state of affairs (“where we are today”) and the desired state of affairs (“where we want to be”). They’re also important because they focus your strategies.
You can divide issues into two types: perceptual and environmental. If you’ve ever done a SWOT analysis, you understand issues can divided further into internal (inside an organization) or external (outside the organization).
- Perceptual issues are what people think or believe – more specifically, why a target audience doesn’t like, agree, or buy an organization’s product or service. While ‘perceptions are real,’ they are not necessarily accurate.
- Environmental issues are more broad. They provide context or background why an target audience believes what it does. Environmental issues typically fall into sub-categories: societal, economic, situational, political, logistical or competitive.
Strategies are statements which address, eliminate, minimise or neutralize an issue. By removing the issue, the objectives can be achieved. More so, you should try writing the strategy in a way which directly addresses the issue. If you do, you’ll never have a strategy that sounds like an objective, or vice versa.
Generally, there’s one strategy for each issue. Sometimes, one issue may need two strategies to adequately address it. Likewise, one strategy might address multiple issues.
A tactic is a specific step of action, planned and implemented to bring a strategy to life. As such, a tactic usually has a vendor (the ‘do-er’), a budget and a time-frame. Ultimately, if you can’t determine the difference between a strategy or tactic, ask yourself this. Can you put a price tag on it? If so, you have a tactic.