How to differentiate goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics

Think a goal is the same thing as an objective? Believe “tactic” is synonymous with “strategy”? They’re all different, and all important.

I’m one of those annoying people who secretly judge (and correct) others in my head. When someone says, “hopefully” when they mean “I’m hopeful,” or “axe” when they mean ask, or “less than” when they mean “fewer,” I’m silently making it right by whispering the correct word under my breath. It’s a serious affliction. I have to fight to keep it in check. My husband copes by giving me confused looks. There are some words on which I will not compromise: those that describe the tools of my trade. When writing a public relations plan, I follow a simple formula, abbreviated “GOST,” which stands for “Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics.” Each element is essential to the success of the plan. Following this template also makes it easy to measure the goals once the plan has been executed, because the objectives are already set. Here’s a look at my easy formula. Follow it and you will have a successful plan. Goal: A goal is simply what you’d like to accomplish. Here’s an example of a goal for a plan to market a new brand of pickles: “Make XYZ pickles the preferred gourmet spicy pickle at specialty stores in the United States.” This goal is barely attainable, and that’s the point. The goal really doesn’t ever change. It will be the same whether the pickles are in last place, or first place. It’s the carrot you’re dangling in front of your team. Objectives: These should be measurable. I know it’s scary, but they most likely contain numbers. Here’s an objective for our pickle company plan: “Sell 20 percent more spicy pickles than last year.” It’s simple and measurable. Sales this year are 100,000. We want sales to be 120,000. Another good way to know an objective? Each objective will start with an verb. Here are some good ones: “Increase,” “deliver,” “sell,” “obtain,” “find,” “decrease,” “speed up,” “entice,” “implement.” Start an objective with one of these words, and then use numbers to make it measurable. Strategies: These are probably the hardest to understand and the hardest to write. This is why – so many times – I see people confusing goals, objectives and strategies. Strategies are WHY you are doing something. Here’s a strategy for the pickle plan. “Collaborate with food bloggers and editors to provide information about XYZ spicy pickles and how they can complement any picnic menu. The food bloggers and editors will lend third-party credibility and endorsement to the pickles” Then, the strategy needs to be carried out. Then, and only then…do we get tactical. Tactics are the things you’ll do to accomplish the goal, meet the objective and fulfill the strategy. Here are the tactics for the strategy we just mentioned for XYZ pickles:

• Make lists of food bloggers and media who cover food.

• Contact media and bloggers with a compelling pitch and value proposition.

• Send a free product sample and recipe cards.

• Compile results of campaign and report to client.

See? It’s not as hard as it looks, it just takes practice. Remember the acronym “GOST” when writing a PR plan. It will get you where you need to go. A version of this article originally appeared on Claire Celsi’s blog.


2 Responses to “How to differentiate goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics”

    Theophile says:

    Hello team. I appreciate your explanations. Now i understand what is GOST.
    Let me ask you, does Strategy cover all the process (I mean Goal, objectives and tactics)?
    May you provide another concrete example as you did for Objective?

    Theophile B.

    hatem says:

    thanks a lot, i like to think of GOST in this way , goals are general statement and objectives are the details , similarly strategy are general action and tactics is the detailed one.

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