Photo: NDI, Mikhail Velmakin

2. What Are You Trying To Accomplish?Setting Goals, Strategies, and Tactics

Once you’re deep into an election period, you will likely be extremely busy. To avoid getting overwhelmed and to prioritize what to spend your time on, it’s important to set clear goals well in advance. Spend some time creating concrete goals at the very beginning of your communications or campaign planning before an electoral or campaign process begins, and get approval and agreement from your team and leadership that these are the goals you’ll be working toward as a group.

By setting clear, well-defined goals, you’ll be better able to prioritize the tasks that help you reach them, while ignoring those that get in the way. Without clear goals from the start, you won’t know if you’ve succeeded by the end, or if you need to change course mid-stream.

You have likely already done some form of goal-setting for your organization as a whole. Communications goals can be a part of a larger organizational goal, or they can stand alone as their own goal. For example, your larger organizational goal may be to conduct a verification of the voter list and use the findings to advocate for reforms in voter registration processes. To achieve that goal, you would need a communications goal of raising awareness of the findings of the voter list verification with the media, activists, and the public to mobilize support for influencing decision makers. Your communications goals should always help you advance and achieve your organizational goals.

You also want to be sure your goals are responding to the challenges your organization and your country are facing. If you have not already done a landscape analysis, organizational risk assessment, and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of the specific threats or challenges facing you and your political environment, it’s a good idea to do these before setting your goals. A risk assessment is especially important if you are operating in a closed or closing space. As you set your goals, be sure to consider what risks might be heightened as a result of your work (or your changing political environment) and take steps to mitigate, avoid, or accept those risks. Keep in mind that these risks can be very diverse in nature (physical, digital, emotional, legal, etc.), so be sure to think holistically as you consider them. A great resource to start thinking about your general digital risk is Security Planner by Jigsaw. Those in higher risk organizations in closed or closing spaces should also seek out guidance from professional security trainers or auditors.

NDI Photo, Patjim Gashi

YOUR TURN: Setting Communications Goals

Brainstorm communications goals by yourself or with your team by thinking about what success would look like. Here are some questions to get you started:

You may have brainstormed a long list of things you hope to accomplish, but it’s important to be pragmatic about what you can realistically achieve in the time frame you have. Try to narrow down your goals to between one and five, considering the time and capacity you have. Just because some of the things you hope to accomplish may have come off the list doesn’t mean you have to give up on them forever - you can always turn your attention to them at a later date.

Smart Goals

Vague goals are hard to work toward, or to know when you’ve achieved them. Avoid vague or overly-broad goals by making them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive (SMART is the English acronym). Defining concrete and specific goals will keep you focused and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Vague Goals SMART Goals
Build our credibility We will be seen as experts on election observation by being included in 25 media stories about the election leading up to election day, and having at least one credible source point to our findings as definitive.
Raise awareness Raise awareness by getting 10,000 people to visit our website and have an average reach of 100,000 people across our social media channels in the three weeks before the election.
Demand better elections Organization or designated spokespeople are quoted 10 times in the media demanding specific electoral reforms.

By defining the time-specific aspect of your goals, you’ll get a better sense of what is a long- and short-term goal. Any communications plan will have both long- and short-term goals, and it’s important to be clear with your team and your leadership of what you’re hoping to accomplish when. You want to especially be sure you’re working toward your long-term goals even as you are carrying out the work to achieve short-term goals. You may want to break up a long-term goal into a series of short-term goals to ensure that you’re making steady progress on it.

YOUR TURN: Setting SMART Goals

Take a look at your brainstorm of what success would look like. Narrow your goals down to between one and five, and make them SMART by making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive.

Your communications strategies and tactics will flow directly from your goals. Try not to get distracted by tasks that do not ultimately help you achieve your goals.

Strategies and Tactics to Achieve Your Goals

A strategy is an approach you can take to achieve your goals. Tactics are the individual actions you take to enact your strategy.

Have a look at your goals, and think about how you can achieve them. There will likely be multiple ways you could achieve your goals: some might take a lot of time, others might take a lot of money, some might be difficult or high-risk in your political environment, while others still might depend on a little luck or another event happening first. Choose the strategies that are the most likely to get you to your goal while being realistic about your constraints, such as time, money, number of staff, media environment, digital and physical risks, and political constraints.

For example, if your goal is to raise awareness by getting 10,000 visitors to your website, one way to achieve that is to create a digital advertising campaign. But if you don’t have money to pay for digital ads, this is not a realistic strategy to choose. Instead, you might choose the strategy of increasing organic traffic to the website by writing daily blog posts and asking your social media followers to share them. However, this approach requires a lot more staff time and a more engaged social media following than the digital ad campaign. If you think the digital ads are the best way achieve this goal but don’t have the money, then one of your tactics will need to be raising the money in order to run the ad campaign.

Don’t forget to consider risks, especially when identifying tactics or resources. For instance, if your goals and tactics rely on a functioning website, but it’s highly likely someone may disrupt or take down your website, then alternative tactics may need to be identified or sufficient personnel, time, and money should be allocated to ensure the website is secured.

To illustrate this, let’s build out one of the example goals above with strategies, tactics, and resources.

SAMPLE GOAL: Raise awareness of what a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) is by having 10,000 people visit our website and having an average reach of 100,000 people across our social media channels in the three weeks before the election.

Strategies Tactics Resources Needed
Strategy 1: Use digital advertising to generate web traffic and social reach. - Raise USD 10,000 for an ads budget.
- Research and test relevant search terms.
- A/B test (split test) ads to increase their relevance and success among audiences.
- Proactively contact the Facebook, Google, and/or Twitter Advertising and Customer Service Team and ask for help refining ad campaign to make it more effective.
- $10,000
- 10 hours/week of dedicated staff time
Strategy 2: Have a celebrity or other influential person share our content on social media and direct people to the website. - Identify the celebrity or other influencer that we think would be interested in working with us and is popular with the audiences we need to reach.
- Reach out to that person and their team.
- Provide them with content and instructions on how to help on an ongoing basis.
- Two weeks of staff time to identify the right celebrity or other person and how to reach them.
- Three hours/week of staff time to manage that relationship and continue to give them updated content to share.
Strategy 3: Use our email list to encourage peer-to-peer social sharing. - Write blog posts twice a week and share them on social media.
- Create graphics and videos for social media that people will want to share. Post once a day.
- Email social content to our list and ask them to share the posts with their networks.
- Two hours/day of staff time to create content and email our list.

YOUR TURN: Identifying Strategies, Tactics, and Resources

Take the SMART goals you identified and use the below table (following the above example) to fill in the strategies, tactics, and resources you would need to achieve your goals. You may find that you have to re-evaluate some of your goals if your strategies, tactics, or resources are unrealistic. That’s okay! Adjust your goals to reflect what you can realistically achieve.

Goal 1:

Once you have clearly defined goals, strategies, and tactics, make sure to get broad organizational understanding and agreement on them – from both leadership and staff. Since the Board or Steering Committee of the organization may not be as involved in day-to-day operations, they will often have a different understanding or prioritization of the group’s communications goals. This can create a big problem for the communications staff, who are then pulled in many directions and have to fulfill multiple priorities at once, making their work less effective overall. Be sure to review and discuss goals, strategies, and tactics with anyone who will be carrying out, overseeing, or assigning work so that everyone has a common understanding of what needs to happen and why.