Ask someone how they measure the success of their communication or engagement activity and you'll undoubtedly hear something along the lines of:
“media coverage showing how many people we've reached”
“the number of events we've delivered during the campaign period - and how many people attended"
“the number of leaflets distributed to people in the target audience”
“the number of visitors to a particular web page”
Now, all those things have value and are a brilliant way to show what you DID. They're all the OUTPUTS of your activity and are part of the rich tapestry that is a good, thorough evaluation. But, say your objective was to raise awareness of an issue with people in your target audience. Would any of these things show how your activity was received? Would they tell you if it had the intended impact and raised awareness? This is where OUTCOMES come in.
Outcome measures tell you whether people saw your leaflets or posters and whether they know more about the issue as a result. They can also tell you which particular messages have cut through and whether people have taken an action (if you prompted them to).
Now there's a good chance that for at least some outcomes, you'll need a baseline - a starting point showing existing levels of awareness and so on - for comparison afterwards. For example, how will prove you increased awareness if you don’t have data on what the level of awareness was before your activity? If you don't have baseline information already, you'll need to gather this before you deliver your activity, which is why it's so important to plan your evaluation carefully at the outset.
We're talking right at the very beginning, when you're defining exactly what you want to achieve. At that point, you need to make sure you're also thinking about how you will measure whether you successfully meet every element of your aim and objectives. Think about what you'll need to demonstrate and the methods that will help you do that. Will you need quantitative data? How about qualitative feedback? Or, as is often the case, will a combination of both be required? Do you need to measure aspects before AND after the activity? Get these things straight and you'll be on the right track to measuring the real impact of your activity.
So next time someone asks about how you measure the success of your activity, make sure your answer includes both...
Outputs - what you PUT OUT into the world, and
Outcomes - what COMES OUT of your activity - what difference it made.
Because one without the other, can only tell half the story.
© Tangelo House 2020