Monitoring and evaluating the communication activities
Monitoring and evaluation is an important part of every communication activity, as it gives you an overview of what was effective and what can be improved in the future. Evaluation gives you a good insight on how to communicate, what you can change and whether the channels or messages were suitable for the target groups. You can evaluate objectives using key performance indicators (KPI). KPI is a value that demonstrates how effectively and efficiently you have achieved the objectives in your communication plan (Klipfolio, 2020).
Evaluation can be either qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative evaluation means that you look at the numbers and data related to your impact and visibility, whereas qualitative evaluation measures more how the change was created and whether you were able to motivate the target groups (Bettez, 2018).
Quantitative evaluation KPIs:
- the number of people who visited your web page;
- the number of new people who liked your pages on social media;
- the engagement of people online (especially on social media);
- the reach you created with your messages;
- the reach to media outlets;
- the number of organised events and people who participated in them;
- the number of members of the target group that participated in the organisation’s cause.
Qualitative evaluation methods:
- surveys with target groups (in which you can introduce short questions to check their understanding of your communication, with simple “yes” or “no” questions, or using the Likhert scale, which helps in grading the attitudes and opinions on scales – e.g. from strongly agree to strongly disagree; from very satisfied to very unsatisfied);
- focus groups with target groups to identify whether the communication was clear, concise and adequate;
- Individual interviews with representatives of the target group to identify whether the messages changed the way they feel, do or think;
- content analysis of messages and produced materials, speeches and media representations.
When conducting a qualitative evaluation, it is important to let people state their opinions without interrupting them and to simply act as a facilitator. (Bates, 2020) Sometimes, it can be good to allocate funds to employ an expert who will conduct focus groups or interviews and give an unbiased opinion on the communication efforts. According to Lisa Hinz from the University of Minnesota, external facilitators are usually willing to ask difficult questions and it’s easier for them to create an atmosphere that is neutral or unbiased. They can bring new perspectives and can help bring the group forwards. On the other hand, they need more time to prepare and can be perceived as outsiders and participants can have trust issues with them.
When undertaking a content analysis of messages and produced materials in general, Cutlip and Broom state that you can see which media outlets reported on your success, and which did not. They also introduced questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your efforts:
- Were messages connected with problems, objectives and targeted media?
- Was communication accurate, timely and adapted to the needs of target groups?
- Were there any negative reactions to messages or actions?
- Were the staff and budget enough to implement all the actions?
Communication Action Team
The monitoring process happens throughout the implementation of your communication activities. The Communication Action Team is responsible for implementing the activities, as well as revising them and monitoring the implementation (Patterson and Radtke, 2009). This process can be done by compiling regular short reports on quantitative data (e.g. a monthly report on KPI), which will make it easier to summarise everything in the end. You can also send surveys to your target groups while carrying out communication activities and adjust your communication based on their feedback.
If you are interested in finding out more about evaluation and monitoring, follow this link.