The GOST outline, not to be confused with a ghost outline which is swearing you saw the hazy outline of an apparition on a Snapchat is the cornerstone of every PR campaign.
Like actual ghosts, the thought of a GOST outline can be terrifying.
It’s one of those things where every PR professional knows it’s vital to a campaign, but they still complain about creating one.
GOST is an acronym for Goal, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics.
Companies have one or two overarching goals they want to achieve in their lifetime. PR professionals will usually sit down with their client (hopefully over coffee) and discuss what those goals are. An example of this would be with my client Sarah Marion.
She came into my PR writing class and explained that she wants the Manteno Chamber of Commerce to be the premier business bureau in the area.
Goals are broad. They can be achieved in a multitude of ways. It’s up to the PR professional and their team to come up with the ways they can help.
Objectives are the blueprints of a PR campaign. How are you going to achieve your client or company’s goal?
If you remember nothing else about a GOST outline remember this: objectives are always measurable. They have to be otherwise you have nothing to evaluate at the end of the campaign.
Let’s just say Marion wanted to plan a weekend carnival for the town and give all the proceeds from it to the businesses in the Manteno Chamber. It’s a great plan but it needs to be SMART
(Oh no, not more spooky acronyms)
Marion’s SMART objective could be this: 35% of the Manteno pop. to purchase 20 tickets at Friday night’s town carnival.
This objective is specific (Manteno pop.), measurable (35%), attainable (20 tickets), realistic (35% is a little more than 1/4 of the population), and timely (Friday night).
My team and I could easily add strategies and tactics to help achieve this objective.
If objectives are the blueprints, then strategies are the plans within the blueprints. How will you approach the plan? I’ll continue with the carnival as an example.
We want the people at the carnival to purchase 20 tickets, therefore we need a strategy to make it worthwhile to buy a sheet of 20 tickets. That strategy could be offering a “family-fun package” 20 tickets for $25. If tickets are priced 1 for $2 then 20 tickets for $25 saves the customer $15.
Tactics are the details needed to execute the strategies outlined. In event planning, these are the elements absolutely necessary to carry out the plan. Starbucks would need coffee cups to serve coffee, theaters would need seats for their audience to sit in.
In the carnival example, we’re offering a “family fun package” of 20 tickets for $25 dollars. That’s a wonderful idea, but before we can make it happen we need to get sheets or rolls of tickets. In order to sell tickets, we need to hire or ask volunteers to sit in the ticket sales booth. Oh, and we need to purchase or build a ticket sale booth.
Those are just some of the many tactics one would employ to the strategy. Within tactics, there are sub tactics. Those are the nitty gritty details that are so elementary you wouldn’t think to write them down. A good GOST outline will list them underneath the tactics section.
For example, we want to build a ticket booth so we can sell “family fun package” tickets and achieve our SMART objective. In order for that to happen, we need to get wood, tools, and google how to build a ticket booth. We probably need to buy paint, and we should look for a Hobby Lobby coupon to save money. All of these nitty grittys are the sub tactics.
G: Manteno Chamber of Commerce will become the premier business bureau in the area. O1: 35% of the Manteno pop. to purchase 20 tickets at Friday night's town carnival. S1: offer "family-fun package" 20 tickets for $25 T1: buy ticket rolls ST1: ask for ticket donations from the Board T2: hire or ask volunteers to sit at ticket booth ST2: ask Board first ST3: put ad in paper for volunteers ST4: go to small businesses and ask for volunteers T3: Build a ticket booth ST1: buy wood ST2: buy paint SST1: look for Hobby Lobby coupon ST3: buy tools SST1: Hammer SST2: paint brush
In a GOST outline, you will often have more than one set of objectives, strategies, and tactics, but this is a great place to start.
You may be wondering how any of this applies to you. After all, you’re only reading my blog because I’ve begged you to or you’re my mom. However, this formula can be applied to goal setting in general.
You have one major goal you want to achieve. Let’s say it’s losing 10 pounds.
By October of 2017, you want to have lost ten pounds. That’s your SMART objective.
You are going to run a couch to 5K (strategy)
To do so you need to (tactics)
- download the app
- charge your phone
- locate headphones
- turn on data
That is one of the many strategies you’ll try to achieve your goal.
See, GOST outlines are not scary! Ghosts on the other hand? (shudder)