A thorny issue

There is one subject that has been a thorn in the side of communication and PR professionals and that is evaluation. It is something we don’t talk about as much as we should and for many it is like learning a foreign language. We know we should do it but we don’t know where to start. We may have bought a book on it that is probably gathering dust on the bookshelves.

It is a subject that is close to my heart but I am still wrestling with exactly what it means. Yes, I am aware of the Barcelona principles and I have looked at the Government OASIS model but I face daily pressures on delivering the work with a reducing amount of resources.

In everything we do we have to know whether it is working or having an impact otherwise why would we continue to do it. It is very nice to win PR and comms awards for creativity and innovation but if the impact is minimal then can we say it was a successful activity?

There is one clear element that should be at the heart of all evaluation work and that is has the activity supported the business objectives in a positive way. I have written many times about the importance of having  communications in the boardroom but that can only happen if we are seen to be critical to service delivery. 

When I am looking at the outcomes of activity my focus is on how it has supported frontline activity. Did that media release and appeal bring information forward to help the investigation? Did that PR campaign encourage victims to come forward? Does that social media account bring improvements in confidence that means service users are willing to engage?

None of this is easy. I am in no doubt that this is a huge challenge for the profession but we need to ensure it is a discussion at the forefront of daily business. There is no way we can be at the top table without evaluation being part of our conversation on communication. This means we have to use good practice and make it live for the organisation we are supporting. 

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