Earlier this year, following the unveiling of the updated Barcelona Principles, I wrote about why outcome-focused planning is essential. Measurement isn’t just something that comes at the end of a campaign or piece of work, but something that should be embedded from the very beginning.
To be set up for success, you need to be defining from the very beginning what you are setting out to achieve, and how you’re going to measure it.
It can be difficult to know where to start – and that’s where the integrated evaluation framework can help. The IEF is not just a tool for measurement, but a tool for planning. By filling in a skeleton framework at the beginning of activity you have a roadmap for success – which then makes the measurement process simpler too.
It is useful as a step-by-step guide to help you fill in the gaps for comprehensive, outcome-focused planning. You’re left with what effectively is a campaign one pager, showing you what you’re doing and why, which can be reworked if things within your campaign changes to ensure you’re still on track for success.
We begin with the absolute beginning: your objectives. Do you know what they are? Do you know how the communications objective is serving the organisational objective? Ultimately, what are you trying to shift – and why? It may sound obvious, but when a brief can be complicated, it’s easy to lose sight of what you are actually setting out to achieve. Distilling the core objective/s using the framework helps ensure they are a statement of intent that is SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
This area helps focus on your target audience and strategic input, forcing you to consider: what do you know about your target audience? What don’t you know about your target audience? Where are the gaps and how are you going to fill them in? As the IEF explains, the more refined your audience definition, the more focused your targeting can be. This section asks you to consider what other information you may need, from relevant research data to background and contextual information.
As you build up a clearer understanding of who you’re trying to reach, why, and what you want them to do, you can start to establish what you should be saying or doing, where and when.
What activities will you undertake across paid, earned, shared and owned channels? How will you be benchmarking the current situation – and how will you use this information to change things?
This is where the framework asks you to list the content, materials, and activities that you distributed and to which your target audiences were exposed. From a planning perspective, it’s the opportunity to ask and assess – how are you surrounding your audience? Which methods are the most effective for your target audience? You may have been tasked with creating activity in a certain area, but are there other areas to consider to maximise the number of people within your target audience who are exposed to your brand, product, and/or message?
From a measurement perspective, here is where you are looking at what your target audiences took out of your communication and how they reacted to it. During the planning process, this is the chance to define what you want your target audience to feel after engaging with your activity, and how you will seek to measure that. If there’s one thing you want people to take away from your activity, what would it be?
Ultimately, what effect do you want your communication to have? What do you want your target audience to do? Do you want your activity to increase your audience’s understanding, change their attitude to a topic, increase trust? Do you want to increase their intention to do something, or increase advocacy for your brand?
Outputs, out-takes and outcomes should ultimately be seen as a chain that together leads to meeting your desired impact, delivering against your original objectives. During the planning process, this is the chance to ensure everyone involved is aligned on what success looks like. This is also the opportunity to reassess planned activity – does everything ladder back to those original objectives? Do we have the right tools in place to measure success?
Filling in the framework during the planning process allows you to ask the right questions and ensure you are answering the right problem in the right way. Once activity is underway, the framework can also be a useful live document. We all know the best-laid plans can change and evolve, so it’s useful to refer back to the framework and change as necessary. If we are no longer doing x activity, can we still achieve y? Are we on track to create the desired impact, or do we need to change or tweak elements of our activity?
Following activity, the framework can also help uncover learnings to inform future planning. With robust measurement and honest evaluation, we aren’t just able to prove the value of our work, but we can improve and optimise planning to deliver increased impact in the future.
For more guidance on using the IEF for planning, please see AMEC’s Introduction to PR Planning.