The single overriding communication objective (SOCO) is the main message to your target audience, by which you would like to achieve you communication aim. The SOCO is described with: “What is the ONE message you want the audience to take away from this interview/report?” or “What is the ONE message or action someone needs to understand?” A good SOCO should be objective, concise and precise.
A SOCO is especially important when communicating with the media. For a good usage of a SOCO see this example of Barack Obama.
The concept of the SOCO was developed by the CDC media relations office as part of the preparation of a communication process. The CDC advises to answer four questions before a communication process. By answering those questions you develop a SOCO. CDC SOCO worksheet
In every communication process you have the basis of your communication. In epidemiology this is usually a study with certain elements e.g. public health problem that the study addresses, study objective, methods of the study, results of the study, recommendations based on the study. Besides the content of your communication you also have the communication process in itself with a communication aim, a target audience and the SOCO. Note that the SOCO is not the “objective” of the communication process.
For different communication processes the basis of the communication your study does not change, whereas the communication aim, the target audience and the SOCO may change.
Example of different SOCOs for different communication processes
Basis of the communication
Communication process with physicians
Communication process with local public officers
Communication process with the surveillance unit of the national public health institute