Excerpt: Measuring the impact

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AN excerpt about measuring the impact from Everyday Communication Strategies by Amanda Coleman (pictured), author and director of Amanda Coleman Communications Ltd.

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Learning from events can only happen if you have a clear understanding of whether the interventions worked. Evaluating the activity undertaken is critical. It is a fundamental element of PR, and this does not change when you are managing issues or even tackling a crisis. The same steps of identifying the communication objectives at the start of the issues management and then considering the outputs, outtakes and outcomes can be utilised. 
The AMEC Framework provides a structure that can support the evaluation of issues. If there are already systems to evaluate communication within the business then review how they can be used when assessing the success of issues management. Ensure that evaluation is undertaken as the first step towards reviewing and learning from the experience.  

The evaluation measures used will depend on the objectives that were detailed at the start of the communication activity. Remember to assess if these changed when further interventions were required. The following six points can assist in considering the impact of the activity when conducting the evaluation:  

Reaching a satisfactory conclusion 

As the issue emerges and you are developing the approach to take including any escalation plan, clearly outline the outcome towards which you are working. This will be the finish line that you are hoping to reach through the communication activity. It is important to be realistic but also stretching. Avoid a negative approach focusing just on damage limitation as there may be opportunities within the situation.   

Minimising the impact on people 

A critical factor in all communication and especially as an issue has emerged is to understand the impact it has on people. Who is affected by what has happened? How many people are affected? Where are they based? What have they got to say about the situation? The evaluation should review how people were affected by the situation. Essentially has the communication intervention and activity had a positive impact and minimised the impact on people. This is not just an issue for the operational response to consider. Look to identify what the communication has done to address criticism, build confidence and restore trust in the brand.   

Minimising the impact on the brand/business 

Assess the way communication has supported the business and helped to maintain or improve its position. This could be through market share, product confidence, or share price being stable or increasing. Some brands are strong enough to weather serious incidents and issues for example large multinationals like Amazon and Apple. In that case the damage from situations will be minimal but it remains important to review the response to ensure any early alert  of developments and changes that may be required is gathered.   

Positive engagement through social media 

There are, as seen in Chapter Six, lots of ways that social media is an important medium for communication when dealing with a problem. Analytics from the channels can give a wide range of data including reach, impact and engagement. It is the engagement that is a critical measurement as is having a positive conversation and interaction. Remember to consider both the qualitative and quantitative information when reviewing the use of social media.   

Reflection of the narrative/key messages in the media 

Evaluating the success of engagements with the media can be more problematic than assessing social media interactions. In many cases the lack of coverage within the media is part of the satisfactory conclusion to the issue. If there is coverage, the prominence and use of the narrative or key messages that had been developed is important when evaluating. It is also valuable to review the feedback to the coverage, comments on news media websites, and look at how it has impacted on people’s views of the situation and of the business.   

Supportive feedback from key groups e.g. stakeholders, shareholders, politicians, public 

If there has been feedback from influential groups these can be valuable to the evaluation. The groups may be stakeholders, shareholders, political leaders, sections of the public, or employees and their support for the response and action that has been taken should be gathered. The views will assist in gathering feedback away from the confines of social media or the news media. Be clear which groups are the most influential for the business and the issue that has occurred. For example, if you have a problem at a premises run by the business then a key group will be the residents and those in the immediate vicinity of the premises. Understand where key groups and individuals are for both the business and for the issue being managed.   

Managing an issue is not just about minimising damage and any impact on confidence in the brand or business. Every issue can provide opportunities for the organisation. There may be the chance to increase market share, to improve reputation, to promote the brand to a new audience, and many other elements. This should not be done by failing to listen to the voices that are concerned about the issue, or not to face up to the situation. But an effective response can provide a chance to do things differently, to improve the business, and to build for a stronger future. This can be difficult to quantify but will be part of the review and learning from the issue and its management. If the situation is satisfactorily concluded at an early stage with no public recognition of it, then documenting it is still important. It is a ‘near miss’ which is a moment when an issue or problem is averted and the damaging position that could have happened is halted. Gathering information about these moments is also critical. ‘Near misses’ will be discussed later in this chapter.  

This excerpt from Everyday Communication Strategies by Amanda Coleman is ©2022 and reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.