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This is actually a follow-up of my blog post from last week about the PRSA’s efforts to update and modernize the definition of Public Relations.

What the PRSA undertook is an ambitious project by any standard.  The question of why so many people are unhappy with the final three definitions may have many potential answers both related to and totally unrelated to PRSA itself.

But one of the key lessons learned, in my opinion, is not to neglect the strategic planning process.

When undertaking any project, there are a whole bunch of things you need to do, and many people who need to be involved.  However there are a couple of fundamental things that need to be established up front, to ensure the best possible outcome.  It’s an old cliché, but it’s true – garbage in, garbage out.

1. Figure out who you’re talking to.   Define your target audience

Who are you addressing?   Is it a potential user?  A current user?  A competitor?  Is it the employees of your company?  The management?  Shareholders?  Is it the community at large?  Is it all of the above?

Why do you need to know who you’re addressing?  Because every group has specific communications needs: language; terminology; educational level; frame of reference; interests, key influences and influencers.  The communication needs to be relevant to the target audience, crafted in a tone that resonates with them.  And, it needs to contain critical information, information that is most relevant to them.

Before you write a communiqué, create an ad, write a whitepaper, give a speech or make a presentation, you need to understand who you will be talking to, so you can customize your communication to ensure your audience gets what they need from it.

2.  Say what you want to achieve.  Establish an objective.

What is it that you want to accomplish with your project?   Educate a group about a product feature?  Inform employees about a change in policy? Build awareness of your brand?  Increase sales of your product?  Create a meaningful definition of an industry?

Why should you formalize your goal?  Because a clear, concise statement of what you want to achieve is like a point highlighted on a map.  It shows exactly where you are going.  Anyone looking at the map has an immediate understanding of the end point.  A clear objective creates a common understanding of what you are doing for everyone involved.  It helps mobilize those involved by providing them a “destination”.

Before you start anything in life, it’s a good idea to know what outcome you are striving for, otherwise, you may find your project derailed and you won’t have a clue as to why it fell off the tracks.