First off, if you don’t have communications goals, there’s no time like the present to set them. Even simple measurable goals can help you make some decisions on a daily or weekly basis about what to prioritize and where to focus your time and energy.

Setting goals takes time and energy though. Under the constant pressure to provide services or respond to external events, it can seem like a drag on your time. But let’s break this down for a minute, and think about how goals can be useful.

Here are two different sets of football “goals:”

These two “goals” don’t look anything alike because one is a “goal” for football (aka soccer) and the other is a “goalpost” for American football (kicking a field goal allows you to score three points… but wouldn’t you rather score seven points with a touchdown?).

The fields that these games are played on look similar but are quite different. And the point of each game is different: if you are on a soccer field playing football, you will never be able to tell if you’ve scored a first down, much less a touchdown. If you’re on a football field playing soccer… well, you will be quite disappointed unless you set up something that can serve as a goal.

Given all the urgent problems in the world and how starved many grassroots groups are for resources, it’s tempting to jump onto the playing field and not have clarity about what is progress towards your goal. From time to time, pause long enough to consider whether your communications efforts are heading in the right direction.

What makes for good communications goals?

Your communications goals are measurable. For your website, it can be visitors, pageviews of a particular section of the site (for example, your action pages) or it could be the number of people who take an online action, or RSVP to your events.

Your communications goals are connected to a program goal. It’s easy to get caught up in “how many Likes do I have on Facebook?” and stop there. Facebook is a channel to reach people. Much like growing your mailing list, measuring Likes is a strategy to get you somewhere, but it’s not the end goal. Engagement with your Facebook audience is a more useful communications goal – especially if you can connect it to a programmatic goal like showing up at events or contacting a legislator.

Your communications goals should be achievable, but not easy. If your organization engaged with 5,000 people on your website last year, think about what it would take to double that this year. Even if you don’t reach your goal to double or triple it, it’s still valuable to set a stretch goal. It’s a different mindset than thinking about an incremental, easy-to-achieve goal that doesn’t push you to try new things or expand what you’re doing.

You have a schedule to check progress towards your goals. At least monthly take some time to look at your metrics. January is a great time to look back at the previous year to see what patterns you can notice in your metrics — did you see the increases in engagement when you needed them? What worked and what didn’t?

To return to my sports analogy: without goal posts to aim for, you’re just running around a field with a ball. Sometimes that its own reward, but if you’re in this for a win, make sure that all that running around is getting you closer to it.

Useful advice about communications goal-setting:

Images courtesy of Wikimedia.