Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ways to Evaluate Communication Campaigns

In this week’s blog, I will be discussing how to evaluate and measure strategic communication campaigns. The study of strategic communications is still a relatively new field; therefore, there is no steadfast means of evaluating a communication strategy. There are a few techniques that companies have implemented to try and measure and evaluate strategic communication campaigns. The formative method of evaluation examines the strengths and weaknesses of the material within a campaign before or during the campaign’s implementation. This method asks such questions as: who is the best messenger and what message works best with the target audience. The process method measures effort and output of a campaign. Implementation of the campaign and how well the involved activities worked are examined. How much material was put out there and how far reaching was these campaigns are some of the questions asked by this method. The outcome method measures the effects of a campaign. It examines changes in the target group resulting from the campaign. Also, it measures change to policy. It asks if any change to social norms, beliefs, or attitudes has occurred as a direct result of the campaign. The impact method measures change at the community level. It asks if any wide spread fundamental changes to society have occurred as a result of the campaign. This approach seeks to find long term change to broad behaviors within society such as violence or cancer causing habits. There are other methods of evaluating communication such as the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) method, which I will explain in more detail soon. Strategic communication leaders have a hard time measuring and evaluating a company’s communication strategy. There is a lack of sustainable methods which tends to be part of the problem with measure strategic communication outcomes. (Zarfass, 2005) If companies do not have the sufficient resources and tools, then how will they be able to effectively measure their progress in strategic communication campaigns? Ansgar Zarfass states, “ultimate goals, objectivities, and accomplishments of the company or organization as a whole have been achieved cannot be proved. (2005)” If we cannot prove the achievement of a company, then it would be quite difficult for strategic communication professionals to measure strategic communication campaigns. However, as I have mentioned before, there are some methods that have been successful. There is still no standardized universal method as of today.

Some corporations have used the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) to measure and evaluate business communication strategies. However, the BSC can be restricted by improper application and its format is not presented in great enough detail for some corporate communications. The BSC can be a very versatile tool for evaluating communications; however, if not efficiently applied its versatility can be its draw back. Some corporations that have been using the BSC have narrowed the scope of its application to only one level of their company. Such is the case with the Scorecard used by Fleisher/Mahaffy (1997) which is focused mainly on the company’s operational assets. In contrast, the consultant group of Hering/Schuppener/Sommerhalder uses their scorecard to pay special attention to corporate strategy while failing to direct any concern toward their operational level. (Zarfass, 2005) Companies that have implemented the BSC have seen positive results, such as decrease in cost and an overall improvement in the communication within their company. In order for this tool to work to its full potential, the company must incorporate it into all aspects of the organization. The companies have to look at several different facets such as finance, customer satisfaction, internal business and corporate growth. Specific goals need to be set and coincide with both the business and communication departments. Technicians need to make sure they respond to customer calls in a timely manner. This increases the chances of customer satisfaction and repeat sales. All employees need to concentrate on increase sales and productivity. If an employee is in engaging non-productive task such as texting or game play; this task should be dismissed. It is essential that corporate and communication departments have the same communication goals. This helps with the measuring and evaluation process of strategic communications. Zarfass states this about using scorecards, “setting methods like this into practice strengthens the role of the communications function because it displays how communication contributes to the company’s profitability and helps to optimize relevant processes. (2005)” However, there are three potential problems with the use of scorecards.

·         The increasing use of scorecards can lead to the misuse of them.

·         The improper design of a scorecard causes it not to link with the overall business strategy.

·         The tendency to stick with perceived tried and true methods that are familiar rather than newer more creative methods that could provide a competitive edge.

The use of the Balanced Scorecard is a promising new approach to evaluating strategic communications. Like any new process it has its potential issues and room for improvement, but overall it gives companies a concise means of measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of their communication structure.     

                                                An Adapted Approach

The reason for communication campaigns is to change behavior and attitudes. Also, communication campaigns are used to push the public or decision makers into action. Most of the time the Adapted Approach is used to change or create new laws and policies. Activities, output, outcomes, and impact are all important in evaluating communication campaigns. An example of this is the following chart:

Activities
Output
Outcomes
Impact
Media
Media Coverage
Awareness
Behavior Change
Web
Events
Opinions
Policy Changes
 
 
Attitudes
 
 
 
Behavior
 

 
The most effective way to measure communication campaigns is to measure outcomes. One of the questions that need to be asked is the following: Did communication activities result in any opinion attitude, and/or behavior change amongst targeted audience? If the outcome is yes there is a change in behavior and attitude, then one can assume that the communication campaign worked well. Some of the ways to evaluate and measure campaigns are: 1.Web Analytics; 2. Short Poll; 3. Focus Groups; 4. In-Depth Interviews; 5. Panel Studies; 6. Surveys; 7. Control Group Studies; 8. Tracking Mechanisms; and 9. Chronological Monitoring. (Owl RE, 2008)
In conclusion, even though there is not a standardized way of evaluating strategic communication campaigns, the techniques mentioned above have been proven to be useful.

References:

http://www.owlre.com/wordpress/

http://www.bledcom.com/_files/326/ansgar_zerfass.pdf