Strategic communications plans, products and activities should be designed to achieve specific goals and objectives.

The first step in designing a strategic communications plan is to articulate an ambitious goal, identify the audiences that can help you achieve it, and determine exactly what each audience can do to advance the cause.

From there, you are ready to set communications objectives. Strategic communications can be held accountable for achieving three main outcomes, all of which are measurable: Raising awareness, changing attitudes and motivating people to take action.

We use a strategic planning tool called the Road Map to Impact to set objectives for strategies, messages, creative content and campaigns. These objectives show us exactly which changes in awareness, attitudes and action our communications need to achieve in target audiences.

The Road Map to Impact shows that, in order to be motivated and mobilized to take action for a cause, the audience must:

  1. Be aware of the need
  2. Care about the cause
  3. Understand the problem and solutions — and believe change is possible
  4. Feel a sense of urgency to act
  5. Know how to help — and feel good doing it

It’s a tall order. But a single communication — a strategically crafted advertisement or video, for example — can achieve all of these things.