By Sandy Cokeley, APR
Cokeley Communications/SCoPE School Surveys
In this age of accountability and deliverables, public relations practitioners across all sectors still struggle with the Evaluation step in the RACE PR planning formula. Following Research, Analysis/Planning and Communication, we should continually assess whether the tools and tactics we deploy are accomplishing what we intend.
Evaluation is integral to the RACE model for definitive and compelling reasons:
- Evaluation informs and improves our effectiveness – plain and simple.
- Through evaluation, we become more productive and realize a greater return on our investment. Without evaluation, well-intentioned programs persist year after year yielding little more than satisfaction of having “gotten it done.”
- Evaluation elevates our profession. Colleagues respect colleagues who hold themselves accountable.
Despite how vital evaluation is to our success, why do so many of us give it casual attention or avoid it completely? The reasons are countless, but include:
- PR is complicated and mushy. It is both a science and an art. When we look at the many varied aspects of our programs, determining what to measure becomes overwhelming.
- Evaluation takes time and money – two extremely rare commodities in school communications.
- We don’t know how.
The good news is that we all can learn. While the methods range from simple to complex, they all revolve around basic tenets:
- The evaluation must be linked to the goal. Clearly articulating what you want to accomplish helps define the measurement.
- Know the difference between process and outcomes measures. Process measures track the effectiveness of tools (webpage hits, event attendance) while outcomes measures track whether the tool changed the awareness, knowledge or behavior of our intended audience.
- Also know the difference between quantitative and qualitative analyses. Quantitative tells us how many people think or feel a certain way. Qualitative tells us why.
The resources out there are endless. Additionally, school communications is rooted in many common goals and practices, and school communicators are some of the best sharers around. Don’t abandon what undoubtedly adds the most value to your program – knowing if it works.
Sandy Cokeley, APR, is a past president of NSPRA and frequent presenter on the topics of school public relations and performance improvement. Prior to establishing Cokeley Communications, she served as director of quality and community relations in the Pearl River School District (NY), one of the first recipients of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Sandy is also CEO of SCoPE, a company dedicated to evaluating, informing and improving school communications that get results.