It was conceived by the management guru Peter Drucker in 1981 in his book “Management by Objectives”. Since then, the method has been revised and rewritten several times. The version I am presenting here is the one most commonly used. It is also, I feel, the one most relevant to communication measurement and evaluation.
The SMART method
S for Specific
First and foremost, your communication objective has to be specific. Use all the common questions to drill down to the heart of the matter: What is going to happen, who is going to do it, when is it going to take place, how much is going to change, why are we doing it etc. Being specific is all about the details so you know precisely what needs to be done.
‘Increasing awareness in the market’ is not a specific objective. ‘Increase un-aided recall and awareness of our brand proposition from current 7% to no less than 15% in the target audience females age 17-34’ is.
M for Measurable
Your next step is to ensure that you have a way to quantifiably measure whether you succeed or not. This may sound logical, but have you actually considered how you are going to gauge when you are at the finish line? What quantitative or qualitative methods are you going to apply to collect data? How are you going to analyse it? How will you be able to conclude if you achieved your stated objective? An objective that cannot be measured is actually not on objective – it is just something you wish for (and thus useless).
A for Achievable
The third criteria in SMART is to make sure the objective is achievable. Do you have the necessary time, money and resources? Is it realistic or are you biting off more than you can chew?
R for Relevant
Relevance is the fourth step. This is all about ensuring alignment between your objective and everything else your organisation is trying to do. Is what you are trying to do a natural development of your strategy? Or is it a vanity project? Will succes mean improvement for the business? Will it strengthen other areas or projects?
A second way to look at relevance is to ask yourself whether you are measuring what is important – or what is easy to measure? Make sure your chosen metrics that make your objective Measurable are also Relevant.
T for Time-bound
And finally, you must make sure that your objective is time-bound. That means setting a start date, an end date and milestones along the way. Plan out when important events or decisions will take place. It is almost always better to collect data in a shorter period of time and immediately apply what you can learn incrementally. If you collect data over a long time-span, it risks turning obsolete before you get a chance to analyse it and react to the findings.
Illustration: Quantum PR Measurement