Work doesn’t stop while business objectives are being ironed out, or even during a global pandemic. During times of flux, providing direction and defining measurable success for your teams and agencies, and your overall program, is perhaps more important than when it’s “business as usual.” Creating communications objectives without full clarity on larger business goals isn’t ideal, but it is possible. You may not realize it, but you already have enough information to create SMARTER objectives to help guide your marketing strategy.

Even without a final sales or growth goal, you can frame virtually all communications objectives around four key areas: increased awareness, perception, engagement, and conversions. Below, we look at how even simple objectives can drive productivity and program growth.

Define Success for Your Team

Let’s use PR and brand awareness as an example. You already know it’s important to drive news coverage, especially in certain trades and top-tier outlets. There is nothing more infuriating to you or your CEO than seeing your competitors in the media and crickets for your brand. But it’s about more than media hits. You want to elevate your story to a broader audience and drive more top-of-funnel traffic to your website.

If you set your objective as simply, “increase coverage,” you will get a single-minded and ineffective push from your team for hits – any hits – and, more than likely, a coverage report that leaves everyone saying, so what? What does this coverage mean and why does it matter?

Instead, write a brand awareness goal aimed at priority audiences, as measured by not just media coverage, but type of coverage, share of voice, and media-driven traffic. Benchmark this against past and ongoing key performance indicators (KPIs). You can do this without having a solidified business goal to ladder up to. For example:

Increase brand awareness by educating priority media and analysts who influence our target audiences, as measured by briefings, priority coverage, share of voice, and website session from media; aiming to achieve an average of X pieces of priority coverage per quarter and increase year-over-year share of voice by X%.

By thinking about what success looks like, and how you can measure it, you can kickstart productivity for your team by providing more detail about how they should be prioritizing their effort, even if you don’t have all the details. Even though this objective may seem simple, you and your team now have the focus and context to execute on smart and effective work.

What Gets Measured Gets Done, Better

It’s not enough to do work. You need to understand why you are doing the work, and how it impacts your objective.

In the above example, priority coverage and share of voice are the KPIs we’re tracking to define success for our team. But KPIs alone don’t show the full picture. For that, we need to look at the other metrics outlined within the objective. These metrics provide valuable insights around how well your messaging is resonating, which media angles to prioritize, if you’re targeting the right audiences, or even how engaging your content is.

By looking at both KPIs and metrics, you’re able to see not just the quantity of your work, but also its quality and impact. This data is what allows you to optimize your strategy and do better, more purposeful work moving forward.

The Secret is Continuous Optimization

It can feel wrong to draft communications objectives before you have finalized business objectives to map back to — a little like putting the cart before the horse. But, as the very common saying that I didn’t just make up goes, I’d rather pull the cart to market myself than wait all day for a horse.

Meaning, teams often hesitate to formalize objectives when they don’t have all the information. They don’t want to commit to a strategy until they know it’s the right one. But, it’s better to have any strategy than no strategy at all. Use the information you do have to create simple objectives, define success, and start collecting data. This will give your team the direction it needs to get to work. As the big picture starts to come into focus, you’ll already have an idea of what works — and what can be done better.