Evaluation is key


Image by D Sharon Pruitt

We’re knee deep in evaluations at the moment – wading through a sea of metrics, news clippings and feedback. Along the way, we’ve discovered some amazing results for a social media campaign we developed and implemented for Run for a Safe Climate.

Evaluations are a reflective process – a chance to step back and take stock of your situation. A good evaluation is like a good holiday, essential but often neglected because work gets in the way.

According to articles written on the subject on the PRIA website, evaluation is an important strategic tool because it helps you:

• identify the direction in which a campaign should take

• assess the opportunities or challenges a campaign faced during its journey

• set benchmarks against which the effectiveness of strategies, tactics and practices can be measured.

So what’s the difference between a good evaluation and a bad one? There are a number of factors that make an evaluation worthwhile. First a good evaluation relies on honesty, second it’s about scrutiny; looking at the project or campaign from different angles and through many different lenses, third a good evaluation takes time and fourth an evaluation should be timely.

Why is honesty an essential part of the evaluation process? Well, there’s no point going through an evaluation if you’re not prepared to accept the reality of the situation. If you’re going to dismiss negative results or findings, then there is no chance you’re going to learn from the process. Also if you sugar coat the information and don’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth (oh god having a Boston Legal Flashback) then you won’t discover what went well and what went wrong.

An evaluation should take the good with the bad. You should see things that didn’t work this time around as opportunities to learn and do better the next time. Evaluations are the perfect opportunity to assess the quality of your work/campaign and are essential to continual improvement.

A thorough evaluation will help determine:

• the most effective communication mechanisms to reach target audiences

• what are the issues or topics that are of most concern to target audiences

• what is the current status of target audiences’ knowledge, perceptions and behaviour in regard to relevant issues and/or the organisation

• who or what currently influences the knowledge, perceptions and behaviour of target audiences in relevant areas and/or what has influenced any changes in their knowledge, perceptions and behaviour since last evaluated.

For Run for a Safe Climate, we were able to identify areas where we needed to invest more resources and have a clear idea how to approach the campaign for the next run. For example, we identified the difference it makes having a dedicated social media team member on the road with the team with direct access to local scientists and organisations plus a live presence at events. This is something more and more campaigns and organisations will have to come to terms with in the next 12 months, the importance of dedicated social media staff members.

By Paul Ovenden for Run for a Safe Climate

Over the six weeks of the campaign, we successfully raised the profile of the run to more than 900 Twitter followers. Further data analysis showed that the potential total reach via Twitter exceeded 50,000 followers, when looking at our Top 30 Twitter champions who provided countless Retweets and @mentions. It was a similar story on Facebook, where we garnered support from Cool Melbourne, Greenpeace and Green Cross fan pages which helped us reach an additional 15,000 fans on top of our 1500+ Facebook fans.

An evaluation should dig deep and needs to gather information from a range of sources. It’s not just a numbers game, it’s about uncovering the real story. What parts of the campaign did the audience engage with? What did your audience think and what were they saying? What did your suppliers think and how were they supporting or not supporting you? Why did the media run or not run your story? Qualitative information is just as useful as quantitative.

By reviewing all the comments, @messages and interactions across the social media channels, we’ve found that people were inspired by the emergency service workers running for a safe climate. There was also very little resistance and negativity throughout the run – a pleasant surprise considering that climate change is such a divisive topic for the Australian public.

Another thing you need to do is give your evaluation process the time it deserves. Schedule it into your timeline from the beginning, and don’t rush it when the next project deadline is looming. An evaluation might take a day, a week or even longer – give it the time it deserves and make the time to talk to as many people as possible. Your overall report should have the figures to back up your success but you should also highlight the personal experiences behind the numbers.

It took us several days to collate the data from Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Twitpic and blogs, which we then spent a considerable amount of time reviewing both individually and as a group. It was a worthwhile way to spend our time, as we now have a clear picture of the reach of the social media campaign for all involved, and are better placed to develop a comprehensive plan to help the organisation take its next steps. Not only that, we had so much positive feedback from diverse parties that can only excite us as we move forward.

We mentioned the need to think about the evaluation before you begin. Think about what you will want to know at the end. It will even help you develop your plan and activities. Also when a client, whether they’re internal or external briefs you on their expectations, make them a part of your evaluation process.

Finally a good evaluation should happen as soon after you finish your campaign or project; the longer you leave it, the greater the chance is you will rush through the process or skip it all together. It comes back to scheduling in time for evaluation in your initial plan and budget.

Once the run reached the finish line at St Kilda Beach, we set aside time to breakdown each stage of the campaign. The whole social media team got together and identified highlights, challenges, wins and lesson learned. Coupled with the data collected, we were able to provide a useful and strategic evaluation report to our client that will help everyone involved when we attempt to circumnavigate Australia for the next Run for a Safe Climate.

That is going to be a huge campaign – 17000km around the mainland coastline of Australia – imagine the number of tweets, Twitpics and Facebook entries we’ll do for that.

Well that’s how we ‘C’ it!

Have a super weekend,

the c word

One response »

  1. But how does Sue see it u #glee(ks) ? 🙂 hehe… im sure she would be impressed by @run4safeclimate and she may be looking for a job – what with her suspension + challenge to the cheerios…

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