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:

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.

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

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

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: