Setting effective goals is a crucial part of any successful communication endeavor. But what exactly is a communication goal? How can the illustrious SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Relevant, and Time-bound) goal-setting methodology enhance the achievement of internal communication goals?
The term “SMART goals” was first defined in 1981. The acronym has continued to garner strength ever since – for a good reason. Defining your communication goals using this methodology helps you to focus.
We are going to explore the concept of a communication goal, the benefits of SMART goals for communication, and examine the best, most successful practices for setting them. The aim is to provide a comprehensive understanding of communication goals and SMART objectives and their significant impact on communication processes. We will also provide some useful tips that you can use to put your goals into practice, as well as internal communication goals examples.
What are Communication Goals and Why Are They Important?
Let’s look at the goals first and then their importance.
What are Communication Goals?
Communication goals are, very simply, targets that we use to share and communicate knowledge, information, and emotion.
While they define broad aims, objectives, and intentions of communication for individuals and businesses, business communication is always goal-oriented, says the career guide team at Indeed. Furthermore, effective business communication goals play a crucial role in the execution of business strategies and they need to be specific and measurable – although this isn’t always easy to do.
“Communication goals define the broad intentions and aims of communication for both individuals and businesses and may not always be easy to measure.”Indeed
So, why are goals that relate to communication important?
McKinsey & Company puts it in a nutshell in their The State of Organizations 2023 report. “Purposeful communication is a skill and an art.” To achieve it, leaders, managers, and influencers must be ready to create and convey genuine messages that demonstrate vulnerability and empathy.
Leader of McKInsey’s People & Organizational Performance, Julie Goran, talks about the vast amount of research that’s been undertaken. She also highlights the importance of communication and change management. Organizations need their people to “understand and believe in what they’re working toward, and to know what their role is in making that happen. Communication is the foundation for achieving this goal.” More specifically, it must be good effective communication that is clear and compelling and encourages employee engagement and dialogue.
One of the most important goals is for leaders to communicate a compelling, high-level change story, she says. McKinsey research shows that when this happens, transformations are close to six times more likely to succeed. And communications professionals “are often the bridge between the person who wants to say something and the people they want to listen.”
Why are Communication Goals Important?
Communication goals are positive objectives that guide how we share information and connect with others. Setting clear goals helps ensure that messaging is focused, intentional, and oriented toward a specific purpose. For example, a company may set communication goals to better inform customers, motivate employees, build trust with stakeholders, or promote their brand.
Defining these goals at the outset provides crucial direction. They let internal communicators know who they need to reach, what responses they hope to elicit, and what outcomes to work toward. This helps improve the clarity and efficacy of communication. Without articulated internal communication goals, messages can become unfocused, inconsistent, and ineffective at producing desired results. Clearly outlining goals enables more strategic, meaningful, and productive communication that ultimately accomplishes identified aims and intentions. Communication goals also provide essential guidance when it comes to shaping discussion and engagement in alignment with overarching priorities.
But, let’s take this a step further. It’s also important to clearly define and write goals for communication. If you don’t write them, you will likely not reach them. There have been a whole bunch of research studies that show that anywhere between 70% and 33% of participants who write down their goals, make a list of goal-driven actions, and provide weekly progress reports to a friend achieved their goals. Those with unwritten goals are less successful.
Some say it’s got a lot to do with neuroscience.
What the Research Says
An article published in The Washington Post in July 2023, Trouble achieving goals? Why your brain needs reminders suggests that 50%-70% of memory failures lead to us forgetting what we intended to do. So, what most people do is to outsource our intentions from being stored just in our brains to somewhere outside our head. This could be a notepad, Google Calendar, or alerts on our smartphones.
An older study from the Dominican University of California proved that in 2015, more than 70% of participants who wrote down their goals, made a list of goal-driven actions, and provided weekly progress reports to a friend who achieved their goals. On the other hand, only 35% who had unwritten goals managed to achieve them.
What is a SMART Goal?
We’ve already said that the acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Relevant, and Time-bound. Note that while many people today cite relevance, the original goal was being realistic about issues.
The idea of goals being SMART came from George Doran, Arthur, Miller, and James Cunningham who wrote an article in 1981, There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives. Their aim was to show that while setting goals can be daunting, they can be key when it comes to executing projects. In essence, their five management goals and objectives are:
- Specific: Ultimately, what are you aiming to do? The goal here is to give a clear picture so that you can then hold people accountable.
- Measurable: How are you going to measure what you’re doing to achieve your goals? It could be the number of people who go to an event or those who visit your website. You just need to find a way to assess your achievements.
- Attainable: Are you going to be able to reach your goals with the tools you have on hand? Our immediate question is, do you have the best communication platform that will provide you with the tools and features you need? It’s not what they asked, but it’s highly relevant.
- Realistic: Are you going to be able to meet your goals? If they aren’t realistic, you might not be able to. So, give it a second thought.
- Timely: Have you set a timeline to achieve your goals? Working backward is a logical way to estimate timeliness. Backward planning generally provides the big picture and helps identify all that needs to get done. Logistics, on the other hand, can be tricky.
How We Interpret a SMART Goal
SMART objectives represent a set of criteria that can help individuals and businesses formulate success-based strategies for achieving desired outcomes. When forming these goals, the objectives must be clear and defined. They need to offer a way to measure progress, ensure they are achievable within existing resources, align with broader goals, and are set within a defined time frame.
Imagine a project manager, Sarah, who must enhance her team’s communication skills. Instead of setting a vague goal like “improve communication”, she could use the SMART framework to create a goal. This might be to increase the team’s written and verbal communication skills by conducting weekly workshops over the next three months. By using the SMART-goals method, Sarah can make her goal specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, and time-bound.
A recent poll by Hubspot found that 52% of participants believe SMART goals help them achieve their goals more often than if they didn’t use a SMART framework.
But why are these goals critical for effective communication?
In essence, they provide structure and guidance, removing ambiguity, and providing clear steps for achieving goals. Whether it is relevant to customer service, digital communications, political communications, or interpersonal communications, SMART goals lay the groundwork that allows us to build stronger relationships and improve conflict resolution skills.
Relationship with a Communication Strategy
Moving forward, having defined what a SMART goal is, we explain its relationship within a communication strategy. A communication strategy, whether it involves highly technical language or basic verbal communication, can benefit greatly from SMART communication goals.
Think of SMART goals as the foundation of a communication strategy. They help define the desired outcome of the strategy, guiding actions and decisions. For instance, if a communications team aims to increase readership of the company newsletter, one of the best SMART communication goals examples could be to “Increase newsletter readership by 15% over the next six months by improving content and implementing a robust promotion strategy.”
There is no doubt that the importance of an internal communication strategy is crucial in every organization. Gallagher’s State of the Sector 2022/23 report identifies it as a top priority for organizations of all sizes.
Having these goals helps internal communications professionals to create focused, efficient plans. It enables their messages to be clearly understood. In this way, they will reduce errors, and miscommunications, and improve the effectiveness of their work. It helps in measuring success, tracking progress, and making necessary adjustments to their communication strategies. Ultimately, by aligning SMART communication goals with a communication strategy, businesses and individuals can create more effective communications within their organizations.
Relationship with a Communication Plan
Having shed light on the relationship between SMART goals and communication strategies, we are going to shift our focus to another crucial aspect, the communication plan. This is where the practical application of great goals truly shines. A communication plan template comprising SMART goals offers the perfect blend of strategic thinking and execution.
Imagine that a team is preparing a meeting agenda. This goal is Specific (communicating the project’s progress) and Measurable (effective delivery of the message). It is also Achievable (actionable in the upcoming meeting), Relevant (pertinent to the team and project), and Time-bound (set for the next team meeting). Just ask yourself whether it’s realistic as well!
This is how, by applying SMART goals to a communication plan, we can ensure that a team or individual communicates effectively, providing clarity and direction. It facilitates the setting of professional goals, enables the tracking of progress, and helps to improve overall communication skills. By integrating SMART communication goals within a communication plan, organizations can create an environment that is conducive to productive discussions and successful goal setting.
Benefits of SMART Goals for Communication
The implementation of SMART goals for communication can initiate a wide range of benefits within a communication plan. This is especially true when we are faced with conveying highly technical language. By making goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and/or realistic, and time-based, we can effectively bring clarity to what might otherwise seem to be complex, unachievable tasks.
One of the primary benefits of identifying these goals relates to the facilitation of effective goal tracking. By their very nature, these goals are precisely designed to encourage rigorous tracking and measurement. This can be invaluable in the realm of communication because it offers clear markers against which progress can be measured.
Honing in on time frames becomes particularly beneficial. It encourages team members to prioritize tasks and focus on deadlines. With a clearly defined time frame, we can help eliminate procrastination and enforce a sense of urgency to complete essential tasks.
Additionally, when communication tasks are assigned to different members of a communications team using the SMART format, it mitigates misunderstandings. Whether the task is to draft a company newsletter, finalize a meeting agenda, create an employee bio, or any other written or verbal communication task, setting SMART goals usually ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Customer service is another area that can profit greatly from incorporating SMART goals in communication strategies. Here, proficiency in active listening, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence can be crucial. Properly identified goals can serve as a mental checklist. This can guide towards creating an effective communication strategy within customer service. Better still — write the goals down so you don’t forget them!
20 SMART Communication Goals Examples
To help you understand SMART communication goals in practice, we have prepared 20 examples you can use in practice. They are all just ideas and they are all doable, depending, of course, on your organization’s specific goals and needs. You can. Of course, adapt them depending on your needs.
#1 Develop an Onboarding Communication Plan
This should be done within the first 30 days. The aim should be to enhance new employees’ understanding of company values and culture.
#2 Increase Survey Participation
Try to achieve a 20% increase compared to the previous year. Try to target an 80% participation rate by the end of the next survey cycle.
#3 Launch an Internal Newsletter
Aim for a 95% distribution rate within three months. This will ensure all employees receive key updates and information.
#4 Introduce a Feedback Session
The idea here is to enhance internal communications. The goal will be to address at least 80% of employee suggestions within two weeks of getting the feedback.
#5 Implement a New Comms Platform
Your goal will be to improve team collaboration and knowledge sharing, with full adoption targeted by the end of the next quarter.
#6 Develop Video Tutorials
Use video tutorials to improve employee proficiency in using internal communication tools. Aim to reduce support tickets related to tool usage by 15% within six months.
#7 Increase Blog Post Engagement
Try to implement a 25% increase within the next quarter through targeted content and improved promotion efforts.
#8 Launch a Mentorship Program
Aim to establish 50 mentor-mentee pairs within the first six months.
#9 Establish a Town Hall Meeting Schedule
Regular town hall meetings should address employees’ questions and concerns. Your goal could be to achieve a 90% satisfaction rate within the next quarter.
#10 Implement a Recognition program
Use this program to acknowledge outstanding employee contributions. Here the aim could be to recognize at least 10 employees each month starting from the next quarter.
#11 Develop a Crisis Comms Plan
Ensure timely and accurate communication during emergencies by developing a good crisis communications plan. The aim might be to reduce response time by 30% within the next quarter.
#12 Increase an Email Open Rate
If you can increase the open rate of internal email communications by 15% through targeted subject lines and content improvements within the next two months you’ll be doing very well.
#13 Create a Cross-functional Task Force
This will enhance collaboration between departments. Aim to have representatives from at least 80% of teams within the organization within the next quarter.
#14 Launch a Managerial Virtual Training Series
A bi-weekly virtual training series on effective communication skills for all department managers is a great idea. For example, starting in April next year, aim to increase the application of learned skills in team interactions by 20% within the next three months.
#15 Implement a Training Program
Ensure that all employees complete the training within the next quarter to improve overall communication skills.
#16 Develop and Implement DEI Communication Campaign
Aim to increase awareness and understanding among employees by 10% within the next two months.
#17 Enhance Internal Collaboration
Implement a team communication tool with a measurable goal of 90% of teams actively using the tool within three months.
#18 Launch a Virtual Water Cooler Talk
Launch a bi-monthly virtual “Coffee Chat” series to encourage informal communication among remote team members. Set a goal to achieve 100% participation from each team member at least once a quarter.
#19 Increase Horizontal Communication
Improve cross-functional understanding by initiating a monthly “job shadowing” program. This should allow employees from different departments to experience each other’s roles directly within the next quarter.
#20 Implement Internal Communication Campaign
Use this campaign to introduce a new company initiative. Your goal here might be to achieve 100% employee awareness within the first month of the campaign.
SMART Goals for Communication Best Practices
Often, communication goals tend to be vague and lack specificity, which can frustrate and hamper the performance of individuals and teams in an organization. This is why the concept of SMART goals for communication is vital. It provides a clear and trackable framework for success. The fact that SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Relevant/Realistic, and is Time-bound is the key. Remember that it can be applied in various professional fields, including project management and customer service.
When applied to communication, it can transform the way individuals and teams communicate, making verbal and written communication more effective. There is absolutely no doubt that setting SMART communication goals can contribute positively to professional goals.
A Clear and Specific Goal
The first factor in the SMART framework is specificity. Rather than setting vague communication goals such as “improving communication skills,” a specific SMART communication goal would be to improve active listening skills in team meetings. This can provide focus and clarity for the task at hand. Using highly technical language in this stage can confuse team members. So, keep the goal simple, clear, and devoid of jargon.
A Measurable Objective
Measurable objectives make goal tracking possible. These objectives should define the success metrics for your SMART communication goal. For instance, if your goal is to improve active listening skills in team meetings, measure your success by counting the frequency of useful interjections you make in meetings that progress the discussion.
An Achievable Task
Aiming for achievable targets generally prevents staff demotivation and the creation of unrealistic standards. Instead of a general goal like “mastering all forms of communication,” you could have a SMART goal that focuses on improving written communication in the company newsletter. Keep it simple to make it achievable.
A Relevant Goal
A SMART communication goal should also be relevant to the individual’s professional goals or their role within the team. Adopting a SMART communication goal that aligns with your role and is relevant to your work can boost your motivation and increase your chances of success.
If you’re focusing on being realistic, just make sure you are being realistic! It’s that simple.
A Time-bound Plan
Finally, setting a time frame adds urgency and encourages commitment to any goal SMART or otherwise. Stipulated deadlines encourage individuals to organize their time and resources better, making the goal achievable in the set period.
For instance, if you are aiming to improve your verbal communication skills during presentations, a SMART communication goal might be to improve presentation skills to engage at least 80% of the audience in the next six months.
Remember, when setting a time-bound goal, it’s important to consider factors like the complexity of the goal, available resources, and other commitments. This will help to prevent the creation of impractical time frames that make goals out of reach.
Embracing SMART communication goals
Embracing SMART goals for communication is crucial when it comes to building stronger relationships within a team. It is also vital for conflict resolution. These goals, based on learned techniques such as emotional intelligence and active listening, can positively influence digital and political communication, thereby making a significant difference in the overall performance and cohesiveness of a team.
Communication doesn’t solely depend on verbal exchanges. It needs a strategic approach, a SMART approach. With a comprehensive communication plan template that incorporates SMART goals, even the most ambitious professional goals aren’t out of reach.
Cerkl Broadcast offers a comprehensive suite of internal communication software, suitable for organizations of any size and structure. It has been meticulously designed for internal communicators and functions as a centralized hub for all communication assets. The platform ensures easy access and efficient management of information, significantly enhancing the effectiveness of planning.
The omnichannel capability of Broadcast is particularly noteworthy, eliminating the need to manually select communication channels. Instead, your employees have the flexibility to choose their preferred channels, enabling them to access communications seamlessly, whether they are on-site, in a remote location, or even in another country.
The platform boasts advanced content scheduling features, allowing communicators to strategically plan the timing and frequency of messages. This ensures optimal reach and impact, reaching the audience at the most opportune moments.
Cerkl Broadcast’s advantage extends to customizable templates, simplifying the creation of consistent, professional-looking content for communication plans. Users can either build their templates using a drag-and-drop starter pack or opt for Cerkl’s assistance in creating tailored templates.
The platform’s versatility enables communicators to segment their audience based on criteria such as department, role, or location. This segmentation facilitates precise targeting in communication planning, ensuring that messages are tailored to specific groups.
Once the communication plan is operational, Broadcast provides feedback and analytics tools, allowing communicators to measure the impact of messages. This data-driven approach enhances the planning process, enabling effective adaptation and improvement of communication strategies. The end of the calendar or fiscal year is an opportune time to review the service delivery plan and make necessary amendments.
Ultimately, you can use Broadcast to communicate your goals and then track their success using our analytics and insights capability. We offer what you need – internal communication audit that supports your goals.
Implement a weekly team meeting to enhance communication and achieve a 15% increase in project efficiency within the next two months.
A SMART goal will align with the SMART criteria. An example is to improve team communication through weekly status meetings, aiming for a 20% increase in project efficiency within three months. It also needs to be measurable and achievable.
The five main goals of communication are to inform, persuade, motivate, connect, and influence.
There are many examples, but here are five:
1. Increase monthly sales by 15% through targeted marketing campaigns within the next quarter.
2. Complete a professional development course to acquire new skills relevant to my role within the next six months.
3. Enhance customer satisfaction scores by 10% through improved customer service training within three months.
4. Publish two blog posts per week to increase website traffic by 25% over the next two months.
5. Reduce project completion time by 20% through streamlined processes and improved team communication within six weeks.
A good example would be to implement a monthly newsletter to enhance internal communication and ensure all team members stay informed about key company updates and initiatives.