Can you show the impact of your work? This short introduction to evaluation will help you monitor your campaign, measure and assess your results, and evidence the difference you are making.

Know where you started from

In order to know if there has been any change at the end of your campaign, you need to know how things stood before you started. Make sure you assess your organisation’s position and set objectives you can measure your results against. They should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

Evaluation doesn’t just happen at the end

It’s important to evaluate your campaign as it progresses. If you leave it until the campaign is over you lose the opportunity to spot things that aren’t working or areas that are very successful that you could make more of. Set a review schedule that’s appropriate for your project and have a strategy in place to make changes if necessary.

Set up a media monitoring service

A monitoring service picks up key words that appear in a range of outlets from national daily papers to blogs and specialist publications. If your campaign is targeting broadcast media you may need to speak to a specialist agency that deals specifically with radio and TV. Copies of coverage are emailed through to you as they appear so you can see what level you’re getting and whether you need to make any changes to your plans.

A rounded view of media coverage

When you’re looking at your coverage, you’ll need to check for mentions of your organisation or project, and your key messages. It might be important to make a note of spokespeople quoted, case studies featured and URLs included. And whether or not the coverage is positive, neutral or negative (if the latter, you should respond as soon as you can).

It is helpful to look at audience reach – the number of people that visit the website you’re featured on, the number of listeners to the radio show you were on.

For print media, a useful tool is OTS or ‘opportunities to see’. This tells you how many people were exposed to your message and how often. In PR, OTS is a publication’s readership multiplied by three. It’s a more meaningful measurement than the number of readers, as newspapers and magazines are often shared or looked at a number of times. ‘Share of voice’ is worth measuring too, as this indicates how much of the coverage your organisation has, compared to others.

But the thickness of your cuttings book isn’t a measure of success

A fat cuttings book looks impressive and is very satisfying at the end of a PR campaign. But it only tells you how many times your story appeared in the media – what it doesn’t tell you is what impact those cuttings had. You need to look at the aims you set out at the beginning of the campaign and see how many of them you’ve achieved. Whether you were looking for a rise in helpline calls, an increase in web traffic, a change in government policy, or support from local MPs, make sure you check back to assess whether the coverage you’ve achieved has helped you make any progress on those things.

Beyond traditional media

Aims and objectives should be as clearly defined for social media as they are for print and broadcast. And so should the performance indicators you plan to use. What would a successful social media campaign look like? Be careful about getting too excited about the number of ‘likes’ to your Facebook page. It’s nice to have an upsurge in Twitter followers, but you need to look at whether they are doing what you want them to do – visiting your website, getting in touch, signing a petition, sharing your key messages, or making a donation, for example.

Focus on what happened as a result of your campaign, more than the things you did along the way. Change is the real measure of your success.

Evaluating a PR campaign

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