Harness the power of measurement and evaluation — both for understanding your impact and determining where to focus your communications efforts in the future.
Setting clear, measurable goals is key to understanding your impact. After all, if you don’t know where you’re trying to go, how will you know if you’ve arrived? Your communications goals should lay out concrete outcomes that will contribute to achieving your organization’s broader objectives.
Does your goal clearly state what you want to accomplish? Is it tangible, targeted, and concrete?
What numbers can you associate with this goal? Is there a percentage or figure that you’re looking to reach?
Is the goal realistic? Do you feel nervous about reaching this target, or do you think that with the right strategy in place this goal can be accomplished?
Does your communications goal map back to your organization’s goals? Why is this goal important?
When will you achieve this goal? What is a realistic time period that you can meet this target?
Using the SMART goals formula will help you focus on what’s most important in your communications program and help you determine at the onset which metrics are going to be most relevant to you and your organization.
Depending on your communications goals, different communications efforts will necessitate different metrics. Click on the cards below for some ideas on how to evaluate specific types of communications efforts.
When thinking about measuring media goals, there are easily measurable metrics like media placements or media hits. Then there are those that require a bit more leg work, like how often the media covering your organization is picking up your specific talking points. Both angles are important depending on your overall media goals. Diving deep into the coverage your organization receives can help direct your media strategy— perhaps one-on-one interviews receive better coverage than a press release. Analyzing this data can help set the course.
Two ways to measure the effectiveness of crisis communications are to evaluate how well you were able to prevent negative media coverage and determine the amount of revenue your nonprofit would likely have lost had you been unable to prevent negative coverage. Quantifying the cost savings, specifically, can help you make the case for funding a strong media relations program.
Surveys are an easy way to measure the effectiveness of the materials your organization produces. Getting feedback from your audience can shed light into what your readers think of the quality and frequency of these materials, how effective they are in motivating your audiences, and what type of content your audiences want to read about in the future.
It is easier than ever to gather data and track performance from your digital and social media channels. Identify which metrics (i.e., reach, engagement, open rates, and clicks) are the best indicators of progress towards your broader communications goals and map out a reporting plan for how often you need to check and analyze the data. The flexibility in making edits and gathering metrics across digital channels means you can be free to experiment, using digital communications as a testing ground for strengthening your impact.
Like digital and social media, your website is another channel where you can gather a lot of data and experiment. Being clear on your goals will help cut through the noise to make sure you are appropriately aligning your metrics. Understand which metrics to track and then follow changes over time. Your data will tell a story about your efforts and your impact.
Gathering data can be exciting, particularly when you can see what progress you made against your goals. Simply gathering the data isn’t enough. Now’s the time to understand and analyze your metrics to determine where to go next.
If a campaign performed better than anticipated, for example, you may want to dive deeper to understand what made it so effective. You might also need to set higher goals for the next quarter. Use the insights you’ve uncovered to adjust your communications strategy and chart a course for the future.
You’ll also want to consider which metrics are valuable to share with different audiences: will donors be encouraged by a great new impact stat? Do your board members need to see a snapshot of your latest campaign’s performance? Quantitative and qualitative data can help you show how your organization is making a difference – and that’s key for external audiences like donors, volunteers, community leaders, and policymakers. Additionally, your evaluation efforts provide a critical opportunity to demonstrate to internal audiences the value of your communications program and the work of your team.