Picture is illustrative. Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

There’s a well-known saying: “what gets measured, gets done” and, whilst that may seem simplistic, there’s some truth in the fact that by knowing what you are doing, and what you are achieving, you can identify where you are falling short and ensure that you meet your goals as an organisation.


Harness the power of measurement and evaluation

By measuring and embedding milestones and metrics in your communications plan, you can both measure your impact and also help shape the direction you want to take to make sure that your communications work is hitting its targets.


Why and how to measure?

When designing and implementing communications campaigns, plans or activities by building in measurement tools, such as indicators, you are able to track progress. So that, as well as effective measurement on the completion of a campaign or activity, you can also change course as you go along.


Measuring will help you assess whether you are reaching your goals and it’s for this reason that it is important to establish SMART goals – by building in the measurement (the “M” in smart!) element from the outset you can be sure that you can assess as you go along whether you are on track.


What to measure?

There are many different layers of communications which can be measured, including, for example: activities (what you did – e.g. events, distribution of promotional material, social media campaign, media campaign etc), outputs (reach, exposure, deliverables), results (awareness, engagement etc) and impacts (e.g. lasting change). You may not necessarily have the resources to measure all of these, however, you should tactically select more than one to measure. As, for example, were you to only measure your activities and outputs, it would be clear what was done as part of a campaign or plan, but not what was actually achieved and if that was in line with your stated goals. Therefore, it is necessary to measure results too and – ideally – impact.


This may seem onerous, but, if done properly, you will reap the rewards later on. For example, proper measurement and evaluation can demonstrate to funders that as an organisation you’re having an impact and can lead to future funding opportunities. Internally, it is also invaluable having good measurement, both for communications teams who can then demonstrate the value of their work but also to analyse activities and campaigns and be aware of what works and what does not for planning of future work.


Tips for being more systematic in measurement

The key to being more systematic in measuring is planning it in at the outset. If you try to measure everything after an event/campaign/activity it will be more challenging. Therefore, it is important to establish at the beginning what you would like to measure, how and when. If you are planning a longer campaign, you can establish milestones, as kind of “checking points” at different stages of your campaign.


Some examples of communications metrics: 

  • Media: monitor media coverage associated with your activity/campaign. This can be both in terms of number of press cuttings, sentiment of the coverage (negative, neutral or positive) and pick up of key messages.
  • Social media: as well as impressions and reach, monitor whether your posts are being interacted with and what the profile is of people who you are reaching. This kind of more sophisticated analysis is more meaningful than simple statistics, as – for example – if an “influencer” in your field or amongst your target audience is sharing your content it is much more impactful than an average user. 
  • Survey: a short survey can be a useful evaluation tool for many different types of communication activities. E.g. You’ve developed a new website. You could have a very short pop-up survey on a user’s first visit to the site. Any constructive feedback can help you to tweak the website further. 
  • Website: traffic. But – look beyond this – which pages are your most popular? How long are people staying on the site? How are they finding your website?
  • Newsletter: Are people clicking links? Which items are they clicking on more often? Do they share the newsletter?


When developing indicators (pre-defined data that you continuously track), bear in mind:

  • Keep them quite simple and easy to keep track of
  • Tactically select the most appropriate indicators; you don’t want too many
  • Use existing data where possible
  • Use comparable stats


How can measurement impact results?

Take, for an example a not-for-profit which is launching a new campaign targeted towards young people. It invests a lot of time and effort in a media and social media campaign. Before launching the campaign, it establishes metrics and decides how it will evaluate the success of the campaign:

  • By measuring the number of press cuttings, the tone and the pick-up of key messages
  •  For social media, it measures impressions and also engagement.


By establishing the metrics at the outset, they are able to set up a free trial with a media monitoring service and use a social media dashboard to easily analyse social media reach and engagement. At the end of the campaign, they are easily able to see that whilst they received several press cuttings about their campaign, they were short pieces and did not pick up many of the key messages. On the other hand, the social media campaign was considered a success: they had achieved a significant reach and the engagement was high, with several influential users sharing their content.


Given that the campaign was targeted towards young people, who are highly active on the main social media channels they were using, the social media campaign was a success. The not-for-profit decided that for the next similar campaign, they would focus their communications efforts entirely on social media and not engage in media relations.


Photo of Sarah Farndale
Sarah Farndale

Sarah is a communications specialist with 15 years' experience working in-house for a wide range of organisations and institutions, from international NGOs to EU associations and institutions. More recently, she has been advising clients as a freelance communications consultant - based in Brussels - working with organisations on enhancing their communications.