Public relations and communications professionals often get stuck measuring outputs - the things they have done - for example media releases issued, blog posts written or coverage obtained. What output measurements don't tell you is how effective your work has been. For that kind of information, you need to look first at the outcomes you want to achieve.
An outcome is where you are headed. It aligns with business and organisational outcomes/goals and gives you the direction you want to travel in. Setting clear outcomes allows you to understand what you want to change within stakeholder groups, communities, consumers, and publics.
Outcomes are set after research has been conducted. You need to know where you are before you begin your journey. Research gives you your departure point and it also lets you know if you need to make the journey in the first place. Environmental scans, communication audits, PEST and SWOT analysis all form part of the research process. Once the information is gathered, you can establish your outcomes, set measurable objectives, plan your strategy and implement your programme. It is likely that you will have a number of different outcomes to work to, and each outcome will have its own set of objectives.