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Setting the campaign objectives or desired outcomes

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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In the logical frameworks approach, the term “objectives” refers to the precise sub-goals to be attained so as to eventually fulfill the campaign goal. Reaching these objectives is typically presented as the direct result of a campaign. The difference between “objectives” and “outcomes” is that “outcomes” take more fully into account the actions of many other stakeholders. Outcomes are the clearly defined, decisive and achievable changes in social actors, i.e. individuals, groups, organizations or institutions that will contribute to the overall campaign goal(s). They may refer to different aspects of an overall campaign goal, or to specific steps that must be completed to attain the campaign’s sub-goals.

The campaign goals and specific objectives or outcomes should be shared with everyone who actively participates in the campaign. If the campaign is implemented by an alliance, all alliance members should be fully aware and supportive of the campaign goals, objectives, or outcomes.

Using SMART:

Objectives are generally defined in “SMART” terms, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

“Specific” doesn’t imply “unchangeable”: As the campaign is unfolding, its different elements and the internal and external actors and factors influencing success need to be constantly monitored. Substantive positive or negative changes may make it necessary to adjust the objectives.

“Measurable” does not necessarily mean “quantifiable”: For example, in social campaigns aiming for behaviour change, qualitative observation tends to provide a more accurate picture of the complex processes campaigns may contribute than numerical data.

Being “realistic” doesn’t mean being pessimistic: If a campaign is grounded in robust research, a clear idea should emerge as to what can and what cannot be achieved within the context and the resources available.

“Time-bound” is for planning purposes only: Time limits need to be adjusted as the campaign unfolds (see also above, “‘specific’ doesn’t imply ‘unchangeable’”).

BEAR IN MIND: In complicated or complex situations with high uncertainty about the causal relationship between what you will do and what it will achieve, SMART exercises may be counterproductive. This applies especially to outcomes and impact. Instead, be clear about who are your targets and why you wish to campaign for them to change. Think creatively about how to influence them and get to work. In these situations, as a counterpoint to light and creative planning, it is important to systematically and rigorously monitor changes in your targets as they occur, in order to inform what you do. See the section on Monitoring and Evaluation for a more detailed explanation.


Examples for clear campaign goals and objectives

The overall goal of the Women’s Caucus for the ICC (1996) was to ensure that gender-based violence (GBV) linked to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes would be fully recognized as an international crime before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Its objectives were to ensure that (i) the Rome Statute, the founding document of the ICC, included GBV among the relevant crimes, (ii) the ICC Rules of Evidence and Procedure and the Elements Annex defining the crimes were gender integrated, and (iii) qualified, deserving and gender-aware women candidates would be appointed to serve as ICC judges.

(Communication from Vahida Nainar, former Director of the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice)


“Let’s stop it… now”, a Northern Territory (Australia) government campaign against domestic violence (2001-2003), using social marketing strategies with the general population and producing a resource kit for service providers,  pursued three sets of objectives, linked to different target groups:

Victims: Increased level of reporting and use of services; ending a violent relationship

Offenders: Increased self-referrals to services

Public: Increased levels of bystander interventions in domestic violence situations


Source: VicHealth, 2005. Review of Communication Components of Social Marketing.