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Developing a smart communications plan is an essential first step, but without an evaluation strategy, you have no way of knowing if your plan is working or whether you need to make adjustments. Knowing the effect of your communication activities and fine-tuning those areas that need improvement will help you reach your objectives.

Every communications plan should have clearly defined measurable objectives in support of the overall goals of the plan. Different indicators of success in changing perceptions or behavior could include: Awareness; knowledge; understanding; preference; attitude; opinion; and behavioral change.

For communications efforts, it is important to monitor, evaluate, and assess communications performance. Examples include measuring media by what percentage of a target audience was reached and with what frequency; estimating the total audience at an event; measuring the column inches of earned media; conducting surveys to assess behavior changes in awareness levels; holding focus groups about changes in perceptions; and much more depending on the objectives.

How do I know if the campaign is working?

There are four commonly known research techniques for these types of measurements:

  • Telephone surveys/interviews – A method of conducting a survey that involves calling participants on the telephone and asking them questions from a prepared questionnaire;
  • Mail surveys – A survey where respondents are asked to complete a questionnaire (unaided) and return it to the sender by post;
  • E-mail surveys – A survey in which respondents are contacted by e-mail and they respond to the survey via e-mail; and
  • Intercept surveys – A one-on-one interview done in-person at a central location.

Examples of measures for the above techniques may include unaided message recall including:

“Heard or saw the ad”;

“Believed more enforcement was taking place”; and

“Stated wearing a seat belt at night.”

When should I evaluate a campaign?

It depends on the nature of your campaign.

  • Is your program ongoing but relatively “quiet” without high profile, high visibility elements?
  • Is it a short-term intense program, such as a mobilization or enforcement crackdown?
  • Is it a slightly longer program, but during a fixed period of time, such as summertime travel?

Ongoing programs can be assessed meaningfully during intervals that range from once a quarter to once a year.

  • Tracking studies will monitor change and progress over time.
  • Very consistent in the measurement and research variables and techniques
  • Valid comparisons can be made from one time period to another.

Fixed period programs with defined starting and ending times can be assessed in two key stages:

  • Establishing statistical benchmark measures before the programs begins;
  • Measuring results immediately when the program ends.

Note that in certain cases, subsequent tracking measures may be needed.

How do I complete an evaluation?

Unless your measurement needs are relatively simple, a professional should be enlisted. A marketing research specialist within your department, from another department, or from an outside firm is recommended. A research specialist will save you a significant amount of time and provide useful advice that will improve the outcome of your study.

In addition, you should recruit partners to help with manpower. For example, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving might be willing to provide manpower for department of motor vehicle surveys; university professors might assist with student manpower in order to provide students with real-world experience.

Putting your evaluation to work

Use specific findings to:

  • Refine your creative approach
  • Refine your primary message
  • Refine your media buy – Use your post buy reports to see what mediums worked the best
  • Track the amount of traffic to your website and measure key actions (how many viewed your video or downloaded a pledge form, etc.)
  • Measure delivered impressions, clicks and click-through rates of online buys
  • Count earned media clips and videos
  • Track audience growth and engagement on social media channels (posts, shares, views, retweets, comments, etc.)
  • Add, refine, or delete entire components
  • Reallocate your budget
  • Demonstrate campaign effectiveness and rationale to support continuance