- Focus on process and outcomes.
- Set evaluation criteria.
You have thought long and hard about your communications strategy, built a creative media team, followed good advice and come up with successful approaches to get your messages across. As a result, you have secured significant favorable publicity for your coalition in general and for your organization in particular, and you have built relationships with key journalists. By all appearances you are a success! But for the purposes of long-term planning and strategy, you still have one vital component to address ” evaluation. What works, what does not, and why? And, to put it bluntly, so what?
Anything worth doing is worth evaluating. Impartial, clear-sighted but constructive assessment is a prerequisite for continuous improvement. It ensures accountability, facilitates coordination, points the way to next steps and creates a record against which future activities can be judged. Every organization should create avenues for evaluation through ongoing feedback, both internal and external. Indeed, in more and more organizations today, institutional cultures encourage and value feedback from all sources.
Evaluation should not come as an afterthought. Setting goals and objectives in advance will help you establish benchmarks against which you can measure future activities. It may be very difficult to go back in time and establish a starting point afterward. Plan now to evaluate later.
In planning an evaluation procedure, the first question you need to address is, Who will do the evaluating? In almost every case, staff will be needed to keep simple records, such as the number and frequency of inquiries, attendance at news conferences, the number and quality of print and broadcast reports, use of your Web sites and other new technologies like blogs and podcasts, the tone of editorials and op-eds, and more. You may also call on outsiders to provide objective evaluation of outcomes. Experienced volunteers or board members may make good evaluators because they are familiar with the organization yet may have the necessary distance to be objective. A local academic with an interest in your issue areas may be another good choice.