Goals and Objectives, Strategies and Tactics

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve seen a lot of communications plans. And I have marvelled at how often the authors of these plans have been unable to discern the difference between goals and objectives or strategies and tactics.

Chris Clarke Student PRIn a recent episode of Inside PR, Chris Clarke asked asked listeners if they could explain the difference between communication goals and communication tactics.

Shel HoltzShel Holtz provided an answer that linked strategies and tactics to goals and objectives. I found his explanation to be one of the most useful I have ever heard. Simple clear and concise.

Of course, because it was an audio comment, you had to hear it. And because podcasts aren’t as readily searchable as blogs, I’ve decided to write down the essence of Shel’s explanation so that I, the people I work with and other practitioners can refer to it in future.

Shel recalled a presentation by Wilma Matthews, the Co-Author of On Deadline: Managing Media Relations. In her presentation, Wilma described a four step strategic planning model:

  • Set a goal: the business outcome. What you want your communications to achieve.
  • Establish strategies: The broad approaches you are going to take in order to achieve the goal.
  • Define objectives for each strategy. Objectives are the measurable tasks that will be undertaken in order to realize the strategies.
  • Develop tactics – the tools that will be used in order to achieve the objectives.

Wilma used the example of World War II in order to illustrate the application of these concepts.

  • Goal: Win the war.
  • Strategy: Surround Germany to choke off the resources that fueled its military force.
  • Objective: Invade France. This is measurable. You’ll know if you’ve succeeded and to what degree.
  • Tactics: What will you use to do this? e.g. ships, planes, soldiers, etc.

In summary:

  • Goals = the broad outcomes
  • Strategies = the approaches you will take
  • Objectives = the measurable steps to achieve the strategies
  • Tactics =  the tools you will use

Makes sense to me. What do you think?