How to measure the things that matter

Evaluating communications

Evaluating communications photo

Start with the wider picture rather than what you are doing when evaluating communications

Four years ago, at the first workshop I ran at the DSC charity writing and communications training days a participant called Rose asked me:

 When evaluating communications, how do you know you are measuring the things that matter rather than just measuring the things you expect to see?

It was a good question. I’m sure many communications people have asked the very same question. It gave me pause for thought.

Her question came back to me when planning this year’s evaluating communication workshop because what I should have said loudly and clearly is –  to start with the ‘big picture’.

Or the most important ‘what’ questions. What:

Followed by the critically significant ‘which’ question. Which:

Starting with the change

In other words, you start from what you are trying to change. The activities and actions (knowledge, attitudes and behaviours) you measure flow from that.

In the international NGO world and some other charity sectors, this is known as ‘top down planning’. It’s good stuff – and it works.

Rose’s question was initially tricky to answer, because all too often communications planning and evaluation start at the ‘bottom’ – with the focus on ‘what we are doing’ rather than asking ‘why’ and ‘how do we know if it’s working’?

When you start by planning communications evaluation from the ‘bottom up’ you can miss the bigger goals. Almost certainly you end up measuring the things you expect to see rather than progress towards the changes needed to achieve your vision – the things that matter.

To find out more you can read slides from that workshop I ran at a Directory of Social Change training day on Evaluating Communications. You can download the slides here.

I also ran a workshop on Writing a Winning Communications Strategy which you may also find useful. You can download that presentation here.

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