In part one and part two we discussed coming up with a communications plan and the actual implementation of the plan. Our final segment deals with trying to gauge the impact and effectiveness of your plan.
In other words, what did you accomplish? Was it worth the effort?
To assess the impact of any communications plan it's important to know and understand what success will look like. Just what were you hoping to accomplish? It might be increased awareness of an issue or passage of legislation. It might be increased financial support for your organization or simply the placement of a story in a respectable media outlet.
Some of these are easier to determine than others. Seeing increased donations is evidence you did something right. But your success may not always be quite so clear.
For example, perhaps you were able to place a story in your local newspaper, but the tone of the story was negative. On the other hand, the paper may not run a story, but instead prominently displays a wonderful photo. So, it's not an exact science.
Certainly, numbers of impressions are important. By sending out a press release through a service such as prnewswire.com, you'll be supplied with reports showing how many online publications actually ran the release or a story. You can also set up your own Google Alert that will trigger results when your release is found by the Google search engines.
You also want to track the activity on your own website and social media platforms. Seeing increased visitors and page views along with more Facebook "likes" and Twitter followers is a sure sign that your message got out and began to resonate with people. That's why it's important to include your website and social media links on any press releases or advisories you send to the media.
Was it worth it?
As you assess the impact of your plan, the obvious question is whether you feel your efforts were worth the hard work it took to devise and implement the plan. Getting on the air and into print or online are sure signs of success, but even if you get little coverage, don't lose hope.
Your efforts may pay off down the road. A producer or editor may remember your expertise for a story several months later and contact you. You can also try to update your release with fresh information and try sending it another time, possibly with a slightly different angle.
The important point is to evaluate as best you can and see what can be gained from the experience. Make any changes for the next time and be ready to execute your plan in the future.