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Too often, marketing and communications leaders say they have a PR plan. But when it comes down to it, the plan is simply a list of tactics and campaigns. What’s missing? PR objectives. And that means you’re also missing a critical opportunity to tie PR and marketing efforts to what matters most to your boss: business goals, budget, and revenue.

Part of the problem is widespread confusion between PR objectives, goals, strategy and tactics. In some manner, they all refer to “what you want to achieve.” So, they’re interchangeable, right? No! The difference is critical. Each element plays a different role in mapping out your plan, and this drives precision and clarity. It’s much more than semantics.


As you develop your PR or communications plan, don’t mix or overlook any of these four important elements: Goal-Objectives-Strategies-Tactics. Here’s an overview of the differences.

A goal is a global, abstract vision.

Broader than the objective, a goal is typically longer term or indefinite, and focuses on an organization’s image, reputation or positioning. Importantly, goals are rooted in the organization’s mission and success.

Goal: Be the leading provider of XYZ services.

PR objectives are measurable outcomes.

Specific steps toward realizing your goal, objectives are shorter term, even time sensitive. Good PR objectives are precise, explicit, can be documented and are results oriented. Modeled on the “SMART” approach (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timebound), they focus on audience behavior, and help determine what you want your target audience to think, feel and do when exposed to your messages.

Objective: Be perceived as the market leader by 70% of customers and prospects in 2020 as measured in the annual industry survey and analysis of messaging in third-party communications.

Strategy is how you achieve your objective.

A strategy is an overall approach that moves you from where you are now to where you want to be. Think of it as the guiding principle, linking goals and objectives to that list of tactics you and your team are itching to implement. Your strategy should be designed and dictated with situational research and context in mind. It’s the foundation for your tactical plan.

Strategy: Position the company as an authoritative voice and resource on the most pressing industry issues.

Tactics are your to-do list.

These are the tools you use. Specific and measurable, they focus on efforts required to achieve the goal. And they align with your strategy. Then, when someone wants to jump on the bandwagon with the latest PR fad, ask: “Is that strategic?”

Tactics: Place company executives as speakers at leading industry events; create and post infographic on future of XYZ; publish op-eds on impacting social issues; develop research report for VIP customers, etc.

Essentially, a powerful PR or communications plan is a roadmap, with a goal as the destination and objectives as the mileposts and bridges you need to cross to get there. The strategies are the methods you will use to travel and tactics are the fuel moving you along. Building it this way, you ground your plan in specifics and metrics. You set shared expectations and justify resources. And you speak the language of your C-suite executives.

How to Get Support (and Budget) for PR was last modified: March 13th, 2023 by Stern Strategy Group