The evaluation of public communications is a developing field. This working paper is designed help advance that field. It offers a set of guidelines that foundations and nonprofit organizations can use when designing evaluations to learn about both their investments in communications strategies and the impacts of those investments.Evaluation offers multiple benefits to nonprofits and foundations investing in communications. It can provide an assessment of an effort’s impact. It can also help to ensure that there is an impact by assessing the project’s strengths and weaknesses before its launch, and by providing useful corrective feedback during its implementation. Finally, evaluation can provide practical information that is useful to the field more generally – about what works and what does not in the use of communications to effect social change.
This is the fifth in a series of working papers written for the Communication Consortium Media Center’s (CCMC) Media Evaluation Project. The previous four papers, written by experts from the Berkeley Media Studies Group, Harvard Family Research Project and Michigan State University, provide a comprehensive review of current communications evaluation in the nonprofit world and the social science of communications strategies. They serve as the research base for th is final paper, which was prepared by CCMC.
Note that this working paper uses the term “campaign” when referring to communications efforts. Communications efforts are not always called campaigns. They can also be labeled programs, projects or initiatives. In addition, campaigns do not have to be stand-alone entities, nor do they have to be highly formal efforts. In fact, very few communications campaigns stand alone. They can also be an organized set of activities embedded within, or complementary to, a larger set of work plans designed to achieve a common end.