If Your Goal is “Implied,” You Don’t Really Have a Goal

In interviewing for a job several years ago, I went through a round of interviews with various members of the organization. When meeting with the Chief Administrative Office (CAO), he handed me a brochure and said: “What do you think about this brochure?” My immediate thought was: “In what regard?,” but I resisted the urge to say that and, instead, said:

“Could you tell me about the target audience and goal for the brochure? It’s hard to have an opinion without knowing that.”

I got the job. Not, I’m sure, solely because of that encounter, but (I hope) because I was able to convey to everyone I met with that I think strategically about marketing.

Not everyone does. Even, sometimes, those in marketing positions. Too often, I feel, they take on roles of “order takers,” simply doing the bidding of their bosses or clients without really thinking about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what results they hope to achieve.

Seek First to Understand

As Stephen Covey famously pointed out many years ago in his still best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, before making an assumption it’s important to “seek first to understand.” He was talking about interactions and relationships with other people, but the same concept applies in marketing.

We can’t, or really shouldn’t, criticize others’ communication efforts without having insight into the marketers’ strategy! But, it’s a point often overlooked in our zeal not only to offer input/opinions on what others are doing but, worse, in our zeal to implement our own communication strategies and tactics.

Audience, and Goal

For an in-class exercise in a PR course I used to teach at a local university, I asked groups of students to come up with a communication plan based on a case study involving a small hospital in a rural community that was about to raise healthcare benefit costs for employees. They came up with a number of tactics, but when I asked: “What was your goal?,” none of the groups were able to specifically articulate one.

So I asked: “Without a goal, how did you decide which tactics would ‘work’?”

One student suggested that the goal was “implied.” Hmmm.

The trouble is that if we select (or critique) tactics without a clear idea of the goal that we’re driving toward the odds of us achieving any form of measurable results are pretty slim. And, in these days of tight budgets and increased scrutiny of support functions (like PR/communications) it pays to be strategic!

If You Don’t Care Where You’re Going…

As the apocryphal saying goes: “If you don’t care where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

In marketing, though, specifically effective marketing, we need to know where we’re going. Only after we have clarity around our specific target audience and what we want them to know, do, or believe (again, specifically) can we begin to determine the marketing strategies and tactics we’ll implement.

  • You shouldn’t implement marketing tactics because your competitors are using those tactics.
  • You shouldn’t implement marketing tactics because you just heard about them on a podcast, or in a webinar presented by some marketing guru.
  • You shouldn’t implement marketing tactics because they “seem like a great idea.”

“Just do it” while it may have worked for Nike, doesn’t do it when it comes to implementing effective communication campaigns.

What does is thinking and acting strategically– and that process begins with a clearly defined and articulated goal.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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Recommended Reading:

21st Century Secrets to Effective PR

Managing Remote Staff

Direct Mail in the Digital Age

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

Best Practices in Influencer Marketing

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