Communications evaluation – get started with measurable objectives
By: Jessica Jones, Director, Social Development Communications, Employment and Social Development Canada
Setting measurable objectives is absolutely essential for effective communications planning and evaluation.
Maybe you are looking to measure the success of your next announcement or campaign, or you might even want to measure your communications activities on the macro/organizational level. Whatever the scope of what you are trying to measure, the first step is to figure out why.
The “why” is essential because you can’t measure anything if you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish. There are lots of potential key performance indicators (KPIs) out there, but they are meaningless without context. Try this approach:
- Your communications objectives should directly link to your program, institutional and/or government objectives. Use this simple but effective model: Communicate with whom about what to why. [See How to set communications objectives presentation (accessible only on the Government of Canada network)]
- Focus on what you want to change. For example, maybe you want to increase the number of applications, or improve employee retention, or want people to support a program.
Once you know why, choose your KPIs. Performance indicators describe what you will be evaluating. These should be based on three broad categories:
- Reach – did your message get to your target audience?
- This might include number of articles, web hits, impressions, downloads, or registrations, based on your planned activities.
- Reaction – were people receptive to the messaging?
- This might include sentiment, engagement, feedback, message resonance, or questions asked during a stakeholder session.
- Results – did you change something?
- This might include public opinion research, attendance, applications, enrollment rates - whatever links back to your program objectives.
Including a mix of indicators will help you determine if your communications succeeded or not. For example, maybe you reached your audience, but the messaging wasn’t well-received. Maybe people thought your message was amusing, but they didn’t act on it because they didn’t take it seriously. Collecting a variety of indicators will help you make better decisions in the future.
Evaluation is guided by the goals and objectives you set early in your planning. That’s why it’s important to define clear, measurable benchmarks in your communications plans, activities or strategies. If you have benchmark data, or data related to a similar activity, use that information to establish meaningful targets. If not, simply note that you will use this activity to establish a benchmark.
Setting measurable objectives and developing KPIs takes practice, but after a few times, you’ll be a pro at sorting through the research and getting to the point of what you are trying to communicate and why.
Remember that evaluation is most effective when it’s an ongoing, systematic process. Find more tools and resources to help you with your #GCComms evaluations planning at the links below!
- Communications Evaluation Community of Practice (GC network only)
- Communications evaluations Tools and Resources (GC network only)
- CCO Virtual Learning Series event recording: Community of Practice Event: Communications Evaluation
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