4 Ways to Set Ambitious, But Realistic Goals for a PR Campaign

The best way to keep a client is to set goals and reach them. On that basis, realistic goals are better than their alternative. But ‘realistic’ is a loose term, with a different definition of its scope for every account manager you ask. It’s tempting to set goals that are so extremely realistic that you eliminate all possibility of failure. There is zero risk. But you could say the same of setting yourself a personal goal to brush your teeth in the morning.

A fear of creating disappointment and losing that potential revenue creates a tendency to want to keep goals realistic, and to dampen the expectations of clients that want nothing less than outrageous success. The completely avoidable downside is never achieving anything that the client really wants to achieve, and leaving them feeling deflated by mundane targets that bore them as much as they bore you. So here it is. This is how the team at  FM Outsource sets goals that are ambitious and exciting, but keeps the client expectations within reason.


When you meet a client, the first thing you should do is ‘define a win’ – agree together what success looks like for that client. More often than you’d think, this just isn’t done. Or if it is done, it isn’t revisited enough. These ‘wins’ change, they are dynamic animals that grow as your relationship with the client grows, and as their goals grow. You need to keep coming back to what the client wants. But remember, defining specific objectives and setting a long term goal are two very different activities. The wins are based around the goal. They are the building blocks.


No business is the same, and the wins needed to reach a goal are therefore different. Don’t fall into the ‘case study’ trap. By all means share previous success stories with clients, but make sure they understand that what you did for that ‘other client’ worked for them because it was built for them. The only way for this client to see success is to have a campaign that is built around them. The method and the results will be different.


The problem with being ambitious is that it is by its nature prospective, and therefore sometimes comes at a cost of not hitting expectations. That’s the inherent danger in a BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. That’s a concept we read about in Built to Last, which is definitely a recommended read if you want to explore it. The whole idea is to create a vision; a long term strategic business statement that is of course audacious but crucially, attainable. (Eventually).

So what do you do? Do you go straight in with a BHAG or do you hang about with something a little less inspiring but more realistic? The answer is to do both. ALWAYS set BHAGs with clients. But also ALWAYS define the ‘wins’ at a lower level. Client expectations are moderated and a minimum level of achievement has been set, without sacrificing the luxury of an inspirational and intimidating goal.  


Everything we’ve said so far is idealistic. It’s assuming objective, simple goals like: “Be the no.1 retailer on TrustPilot”. But what about the subjective, non-specific goals? “Have better brand sentiment than competitor X” – how do you define that? How do you know when you’re there?

Even if you do get objective goals, you might not get there. What if you give it your all, bag all of the wins, but never get the BHAG? The unavoidable truth is that even if you meet expectations, the client will want the big, hairy audacious goal from the second you mention it. So we’re about to do something one should never do in writing – we’re going to contradict ourselves. BHAGs are a bad idea.

Putting BHAGs into any client scenario will always create chaos. Do it anyway.

Coming to terms with that is the beginning – it’s where you begin to accept the highly competitive environment that is today’s market. The power is, as they say, in the hands of the consumer and ultimately that means realistic goals and ambitious goals move further and further apart. But success doesn’t happen in a vacuum – the chaos is where it all happens. In order to excel (much less survive) you need to achieve something incredible. And that’s what a BHAG is all about. Just remember to moderate it with achievable ‘wins’.

Related: Beware of These Half-Truths When Hiring a PR Company

Byline: A big THANK YOU to FM Outsource for their input on this article! 

FM Outsource specializes in creating bespoke customer experience solutions that are omnichannel, multilingual and available 24/7/365. They work with a range of traditional and digital channels, including telephony, email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, webchat, TrustPilot, Amazon and eBay. FM Outsource operates on an industry-leading, cost-per-contact model that maximizes cost-efficiency without losing quality. They’re data-driven and focus our energies on creating a better customer experience by monitoring customer satisfaction with benchmarks like Net Brand Sentiment and Net Promoter Score. FM Outsource brings it all together into one, cohesive, cost-effective contact center that puts the customer first.

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