Spitfire Strategies

Evaluating Your Impact

Kristen Grimm

By Kristen Grimm
President

Now is a great time to take stock in your communication efforts and ensure these efforts are working as effectively as possible to support your organizational goals. Assessing your communications is a valuable way to leverage activities that are working and correct (or omit) the ones that are not. Get started by following these five tips for smarter, more strategic communication.

  1. Stick to what’s important – and put a number on it. Measuring too many things can be as risky as measuring too few. Communication should increase engagement, expand influence, create political will and change behavior (among other things). Set metrics that measure the major undertakings and forecast what you want to see happening – using real numbers to plot your progress. If you want to activate more vocal supporters around an issue, set a specific percentage increase in the number of social media posts you’ll generate during a set period of time, then hold yourself accountable to that
  2. Get real time feedback. Some feedback loops are easy, like reviewing Google Analytics. Others are tougher, like measuring whether coalition members are consistently on message. But the latter is important to track if amplifying messages is a priority for you. Tracking e-mail alerts from partner organizations and media coverage via Google Alerts can help you test for message saturation. The key is to have a plan and set a system that automatically gathers data in an efficient manner so you can immediately apply what you learn.
  3. Embrace keep, start, stop. The point of a communication assessment is to find out what’s working, what’s not and what might be worth a try. An e-newsletter with low click-through rates is a waste of communication resources. This feedback should trigger a change, such as updating the information to make it more relevant to the target audience, trying different marketing efforts, or possibly deciding the newsletter is not an effective way to reach the intended audience and switching to something else. The point is to do something with the information you collect – even if that something is stopping what you are doing and changing gears. Stopping what isn’t working is as important as leaning into what is. Regularly review your communication activities and hold the outcomes up against your goals. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but as you take on more new activities it’s okay to eliminate the old ones that are no longer working.
  4. Fail, fail fast. More public interest groups need to embrace this old Silicon Valley saying. Plenty of communication efforts do not appeal to, compel or activate their intended audience. It’s okay to try and fail, but then move on. Instead of assuming there is something wrong with the audience, find a better way to connect. Create a culture of this approach at your organization by focusing on getting results rather than defending your efforts.
  5. Track fingerprints. If you need to track your organization’s role in executing successful communications, you need to make sure there are “fingerprints” to your outreach activities. Find ways to tag your efforts to determine what’s working. For example, if you are trying to get five policymakers vocal on an issue, try getting them to use a specific phrase to assess whether they are responding to your specific communications.

“This is a truly transformative program and there is no question that it is preparing leaders to be courageous communicators.”

- Colleen Bailey, Executive Director, The National Steinbeck Center

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