How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 13 – Evaluation

Measuring This is it – the last stage of preparing your communications plan – evaluation.

As with several parts of this communications planning series, the stage at which you write this part of your plan is fairly arbitrary. I recommend you turn your mind to it after, not before, you finish considering your analysis, objectives, strategy and tactics (you do need to know what you’re measuring, after all), but beyond that point it’s largely up to you.

Evaluation is a tough area to tackle, and one that’s often neglected in public relations. There are plenty reasons for this:

  • The challenge of trying to find a measurement system that accounts for the wide variety of tactics possible in a public relations campaign
  • The reluctance of clients, be they internal or external, to dedicate budget to evaluation
  • The lack of well-established criteria for measuring social media success
  • The fast-moving pace of communications that moves us on to the next announcement as soon as the last one is finished.

Your goal for this section

Your goal in your evaluation section is to lay out how you will measure your communications success. In a high-profile initiative this may be through the various stages of your announcement (we identified three – pre-announcement, announcement and post-announcement, when we looked at tactics earlier); in others, it may have a smaller scope.

Staged Measurement

If you’re planning a staged rollout of your communications program, try to measure your results over time. Alongside providing more credible results, this has the added benefit of allowing you to take corrective action if you sense your activities aren’t getting the desired results. Take a look at the different milestones you’ve identified for the project and consider which are suitable points to measure at.

Of course, you should also measure at the end of the initiative to see whether you’ve accomplished your objectives. Ideally, you’ll be able to compare that to the results showing whether the business objectives were accomplished too.

Potential Metrics

I’m certainly not an expert in measurement tactics, but here are a few measurements you may want to consider, depending on your objectives:

  • Media coverage
    • How much coverage did you receive?
    • What was the tone of that coverage (positive/negative)?
    • Which media outlets was the coverage in? Where in those outlets? What’s the audience of those placements?
    • Did you achieve the desired visuals?
    • Did they pick up your key messages?
    • Were your spokespeople quoted?
    • Were the mentions of your initiative the focus of the coverage, or a side note?
    • Methods for achieving these metrics vary. While I haven’t used it personally, the Media Relations Rating Points system has achieved some traction (see Ben Boudreau’s One Degree post for a case study).
  • Interactive
    • How many visitors saw your content?
    • How long did they spend on the site?
    • What pages did they visit?
    • Did they hit specific landing pages?
    • What was their bounce rate?
    • What was their conversion rate (identify a goal for visitors – purchase/registration/download, etc.)?
    • Social media measurement is even more debatable than regular PR. Comments, inbound links, etc are lovely, but at best they’re just proxies for more meaningful measurements.
  • Stakeholders
    • How did your stakeholders react?
  • Public inquiries
    • How many letters/emails/calls did you receive on this topic? Is that higher or lower than usual?
    • What was the tone of the incoming correspondence?
    • What did the correspondents say/ask?
  • Benchmarking
    • Conduct market research/polling before and after (perhaps also during) your communications to show improvement in metrics over time, for example in public attitudes
    • Focus groups

These are just a few metrics. What others can you suggest?

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is the final post in my series of 13 posts on exploring how to create a good strategic communications plan. To read the rest of the series, check out the other posts here.

(Photo credit: verzerk)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.