Once you have completed the first three steps (identifying your message and needs, your audience and your method of reaching them) you will have a view of the aim of your science communication. Now you need to set your objective; something concrete that will allow you to plan your activity. A little care at this stage will make your evaluation so much easier and is worth the effort when you come to provide a measure of your impact.
While there are many models for managing a project, such as PRINCE2 or the LogFrame methodology, the basic limitations of your plan can be summarised by the three aspects; cost, time and scope. These will constrain your project objective from competing sides and inform your overall objective:
- COST: the budgeted amount available to run the project
- TIME: the amount of time available to complete a project, and
- SCOPE: what must be done to achieve the desired end result(s) of the project.
The simplest model for writing a comprehensive objective is the SMART model.
- SPECIFIC: Don’t be vague. Breakdown your aims into finer details. Who is involved? What do I want to accomplish? Where will this happen? When will it happen?
- MEASURABLE: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. To set a measurable element of your objective, ask questions such as: How much of resource ‘X’ should be produced? How many of my audience should I reach? How will I know when it is accomplished?
- ACHIEVABLE: Questions you need to ask: Can you get resources and support you need? Do you have the ability to ‘up-skill’ where you need to, in order to fulfill the objective? As well as your needs, you must consider your audience and any barriers they will face.
- REALISTIC: Your objective must accurately address the scope of your aim. Objectives that do not directly relate to your aim will not help toward achieving it.
- TIMELY: A goal should be grounded within a time frame. How long do you have for each phase of the project as well as a final end-date? Set yourself deadlines throughout the project as checkpoints to ensure you remain on track.
Now we need to bring all these elements together. Address all these and you will be able to clearly see your objective. Finally summarise all these points into a sentence or two. That is your SMART objective.
You may find while writing your objective that you are planning to undertake something outside your current skill set. This needs to be managed too and is something we tend to procrastinate over. Your activity should challenge you, leaving you with new skills and experience at the end of your project. If you are lacking skills then remind yourself that you are developing yourself. Ask yourself what you are capable of doing, then aim just beyond that. Don’t forget that you are not alone in trying something. This is one of the reasons why communities like #BrumSciComm are popular.
If we are communicating our favourite topic, we would love our audience to learn something. How do we maximise the opportunity of people learning from our communication? That’s the next step!