Records of Events
You can review the number and quality of your news conferences, media briefings, visits to your Web site, editorial board appearances, TV news placements and radio talk show bookings. Are events better attended or more appealing than before? How would you improve your planning and implementing of events in the future? What would your dream placement be, and how can you start working to make it real?
Improved Institutional Capacity
When working in a coalition, communications strategists can evaluate their programs by referring to the level of their partners’ communication skills, the degree to which communications technologies are used well and the level of integration of communications strategies into the institutional plans of allied groups.
Change in Organizational Participation
Some campaigns are designed to enlist volunteers, raise funds or otherwise improve the participation of a target group. You can measure these efforts against trends in donations and volunteer activity.
Media Content Analysis
A review of the content of media coverage both before and after the implementation of a strategic media campaign can help you assess the impact of your work. For instance, you can simply count the number of newspaper clips on your topic or the number that specifically mention your coalition or group.
But content analysis can be subjective, as well as objective. If your strategy included outreach to editorial boards, for instance, you should analyze the frequency and tone of editorials and the way they supported or opposed your positions. Are you being regularly contacted for comment on developing news stories when you were not contacted before? That can be a measure of progress. Also, find out what the journalists you work with think about your efforts. If you have a good enough relationship, you can ask them, “How am I doing?” and “How can I do my job better?”
Shifts in Public Opinion
Are people more familiar with or more favorable toward your agenda? Has your group’s name recognition increased? You can compare the results of scientific surveys at the start and end of a specific campaign, or across any other reasonable time frame, to see how you may have affected public opinion. Comparing the way people responded to key questions then and now can provide evidence of change.
If you are in the business of effecting social change, another measure of success is how policy has changed during the period under evaluation. It is rare that a single group can point to change and claim it for its own. But if the policy context is improved, and if legislation you have supported is in place, you have helped create the climate that made the change possible. What was your organization’s role?
Use of These Criteria
Adapt and adopt these criteria where appropriate. And understand that working with the news media necessarily entails responding to events that you could not have foreseen when you made plans ” that is the nature of news. Anticipate the worst, hope for the best, take pride in your accomplishments and approach problems as a new challenge. Anyone with a story to tell can get in the news. Your imagination and willingness to try things and learn from them are no less important than your budget and your experience.