8. Is It Working?Evaluation and Analysis

Having clear criteria to measure your success will allow you to know if your communications plan is working and achieving your goals – or if it’s not performing as you had hoped, and you need to revisit and adjust your strategies and tactics. You’ll need to know what you’re measuring and ideally you’ll be collecting data frequently enough to see problems early and adjust before it’s too late or too hard.

You’re not starting totally from scratch, as the “M” in your SMART goals is “measurable.” If you’ve written your goals with measurability in mind, then you’ll have some idea of what metrics you need to collect and use as benchmarks on your way to your goal.

During your planning process, think about what metrics are meaningful and matter to your work. You don’t want to be in a position where you are tracking the metrics that are easiest to track but aren’t a real measure of the success of your program. It can also be difficult or impossible in some cases to gather data from the past, so you want to have a clear understanding of what is relevant before you begin.

Reach vs Engagement

There are two broad ways to measure your communications: reach and engagement.

Reach looks at how many people saw your content. It does not distinguish between active and passive consumption – if a person sees your TV ad, receives your email, or scrolls past your content in their newsfeed, it will count toward your reach. Reach can be a useful metric if you are trying to saturate a market, strengthen your brand, or raise awareness of an issue – just creating a constant presence with a certain audience, even if they are passively consuming your information, can sometimes be an effective strategy.

Engagement measures whether someone took action with your content in some way. On social media, this might include leaving a comment, sharing your post, or clicking through to join your email list or sign up to volunteer. In an email, it might include opening the email, clicking through your call to action, forwarding the email to a friend, or replying to your email. With a text message, it might mean they reply or show up to the protest you are informing them about.

Engagement numbers will be lower than reach, but the interactions will be deeper and the audience more heavily invested in your mission and its success. Think carefully about whether you need a smaller-but-active or a larger-but-passive audience to achieve your goals before deciding whether you will emphasize reach or engagement.

You can also measure both – and indeed, they are not necessarily disconnected. To achieve the engagement numbers you want, you may need to reach more people. But you should be clear about what metrics are relevant to achieving your goals and prioritize those.

Common Analytics and Metrics Available

A number of digital platforms have built-in analytics that you can access for free (or included in the price) that are very powerful when used well.

Email Analytics

Any mass emailer you use should provide you with basic analytic data you can use to refine your email strategy.

  • Open rate: This is the rate at which people open your email. A healthy and active email list will have around a 20 percent open rate for any given email sent.
  • Click-through rate: This is the rate at which people click on whatever links you put in your emails. For emails with a clear call to action, you should expect a click-through rate of 20 percent. Most mass emailers will also show you which links were clicked on the most, so you can learn whether placing your call to action at the top or bottom of your email is more effective, or whether there is one link people were more interested in than others, for example.
  • Unsubscribe rate: This is the rate at which people unsubscribe from any given email. A normal unsubscribe rate is less than 1 percent per send. If you see a sudden spike in unsubscribes, you should figure out whether you’re emailing too often or if your language, tone, or content are alienating your audience.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics tracks all your web traffic and the behavior of the people who visit your website. Once you have a Gmail address, you can use it to open an account at analytics.google.com. There you can get a small bit of code that you place into your website (follow Google’s instructions for how to do this), and after that you will be able to track all your web traffic in real time and over time. Be sure to install Google Analytics on your websites from the very beginning – the analytics cannot collect data on your site from a time before it was installed.

There is a lot of information available to you in analytics, and you should spend some time exploring it to see what’s available. Most of it was designed to help business websites maximize their customers’ experience, but there is still a lot of useful information for civic groups.

  • Audience: You can learn about the visitors to your website through the audience features. How many unique visitors did you get and how often do they come back? How long do they stay on the site and how many pages do they view in a visit? What are the demographics of your audience and what are their interests? If you were hoping for deep engagement on your website from young men ages 16-26, but your analytics reveal that your primary audience is older women ages 60-75 and they are only staying on the site for an average of 8 seconds, then you may need re-evaluate either the content of your website or the ways that you are promoting it (or both).
  • Devices and browsers: Part of the audience information includes what browsers and devices they are using to access your site. Be sure that your site is optimized to look its best on the most popular devices and browsers your audience is using.
  • Behavior: You can learn about how people actually use your site from the behavior features. You can see what content is most popular and how long people spend engaging with each page. You can also see the most common site behavior flows – what pages do people start on and how do they travel through the site? Are they finding the information you most want them to find? Are they engaging deeply with your site or spending only a few seconds on it? Is the path through the site the one you had envisioned? If not, do you need to change your menu or page configuration to ensure that people are seeing the information you want them to prioritize? Use the behavior information to maximize the impact of your content and refine your site to ensure that your audience has an easy time finding the information it needs.
  • Acquisition: You can learn a lot about how your audience found your site from the acquisition features. You can find how many people found you through organic search and the search terms they used to do so. You can also see what websites account for your web referrals – if they are coming from your social media posts, news articles, other referring websites, etc. If your social media referrals are low but your organic search rates are high, you might want to spend more time creating content that performs well based on what people are searching for, rather than creating more posts for social media that refer back to your website, for example. If you are paying for site promotion you can also link your Google AdWords account to your Analytics account and monitor it in this section.
  • You can create sophisticated searches and reports by combining this data. Click on “add a segment” to any report screen to add additional data points. For example, if you want to see how young men ages 16-26 are finding your site versus older women ages 60-75, you can add a demographics segment to your channels analytics screen and find the breakdown. They may have totally different referrals, which you can then refine and cater to more effectively.
  • You can also compare site performance over time with the date range feature. You can look at your analytics over any period of time you choose, and you can also overlay that over any comparable period of time by clicking “compare to.” This can help you analyze trends over time in the data.

Facebook Insights

Facebook offers free analytics (called Insights) for your page, and also works with your website if you are tracking users’ behavior from Facebook through to your website. There is a lot of useful information collected here, too, and you should explore it to see what’s available and relevant to you. But ultimately you should decide on which metrics matter the most to your success and focus on them.

  • Demographics: You can learn about your audiences’ demographics – what geographic location, age, gender, and preferred language of the people are who are following your page, seeing your content and engaging with it.
  • Reach and engagement: You can track likes, followers, and reach over time. You can also dig into which posts have the highest reach and engagement rates.
  • Video views: You can see how many people watched and reacted to your videos, for how long on average, and at what point most people quit watching.
  • Facebook to website behavior: You can place a pixel associated with your Facebook page into the code of your website. This will allow you track how people who go from Facebook to your website behave. This is particularly useful if you want them to go from Facebook to complete an action on your website, like signing up for your email list.

Twitter Analytics

By going to analytics.twitter.com, you can see free analytics associated with your Twitter account, regardless of whether you are paying for ads. Some of the metrics you can collect are:

  • How individual tweets perform, in terms of reach and engagement.
  • How your native videos perform, including how long people watch your videos for.
  • Who your audience is, including income, occupation, interests, gender, education, and income.

Other Metrics

Most social media platforms have some kind of free, built-in analytics platform. You can dig into other analytics options and see what’s available to you to measure. Play around with what’s available, research what each number means, and decide which ones are important to track over time.

Some strategies may require metrics that don’t exist easily on one platform but are a good measure of success: number of times quoted in the media, number of attendees at an event, number of off-the-record meetings with reporters, number of times a donor replied to an email with feedback, trends in public opinion, etc. All those may be the truer measure of your success, rather than reach on Facebook. Think critically about what is a meaningful measurement of your goal and track that, even if it is not the easiest metric available.

A/B Testing

As you use metrics to learn what works and is most effective at meeting your goals, you may want to integrate an A/B testing plan into some or all of your communications. A/B testing means trying two different subject lines, contents, graphics, tones, messages, etc. to random subsets of similar audiences to see which they respond to best.

Woman does work on computer.
NDI Photo.

For example, you could send an email with a red call-to-action button at the very top of the email to half of your list and one without the button to the other half. After a day or so, compare click-through rates of both tests – were people who received the button email more likely to click-through? If so, you may want to include a red call-to-action button in all your emails as a best practice to increase engagement with your emails. Or you may want to test a red call-to-action button against a blue call-to-action button in your next email and learn from that.

A/B testing can help you refine the effectiveness of your message, appeals, subject lines, tone, and design over time on email, websites, and social media. It does require careful tracking of results and integrating lessons learned and new best practices into future communications for maximum impact.

YOUR TURN: Review Your Goals

Review each of your goals. Brainstorm different indicators that will help you know if you’ve achieved them.

Now assign each a concrete method (such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, etc.) you will use to measure and track each of these indicators.

Continuing our example, it might look something like this:

GOAL 1: Raise awareness of what a PVT is by having 10,000 people visit our website and having an average reach of 100,000 people across our social media channels in the three weeks before the election.

  • 10,000 unique visitors to our website who stayed longer than 5 seconds. (Google Analytics)
  • 100,000 reach per week on social media channels with at least a 5 percent engagement rate. Our target demographic of young women ages 16-26 should comprise 50 percent of our reach audience. (Facebook & YouTube analytics)
  • Emails to journalists have a 30 percent open rate and 10 percent click-through rate. (MailChimp analytics)
  • Quarterly calls with journalists are attended by at least 12 journalists per call. (Internal tracking)
  • Political contestants are opening our emails at a 20 percent open rate and replying to our emails at least once a week. (MailChimp analytics and internal tracking)

Put a System In Place

Once you have decided which metrics you need to track to achieve your goals, you will need to put a system in place to collect that data regularly. Your tracking system should collect the data you need to follow but not be so arduous that it is taking up too much time or effort. It should also be tracked or presented in such a way that you can easily see your progress toward your goals, or quickly identify problems or strategies that aren’t working.

Questions to keep in mind when you are setting up your metrics-collection process:

Woman being interviewed.
NDI Photo.
  • Who will be collecting and compiling the data, including data that needs be manually collected (like number of meetings held)?
  • Is there one person or many contributors tracking it? How much time do they have to do this task, taking into account their other work?
  • How long does the collection process take and is it overly arduous?
  • Can the process or part of the process be automated?
  • How often does the data need to be collected?
  • Are all the necessary data points being collected?
  • Is the data being displayed in a way that is easy to read and draw conclusions from?
  • Who needs access to the data? Do they have it?

Once you have a system in place, schedule regular meetings with any team members or leadership that helped create the goals and/or are carrying out the strategies of the plan. Discuss how each strategy is performing according to its metric. Are you on track to meet your goals? Are some strategies working better than others? Are some strategies not working at all? Be honest with yourself and your team about your progress and what is or isn’t working.

Use these regular check-ins to refine and update your strategies and tactics based on real data. This should be an iterative and ongoing process.

Goal Topline Message Target Audience Target Message Communication Tool Metric
Raise awareness of what a PVT is by having 10,000 people visit our website and having an average reach of 100,000 people across our social media channels in the three weeks before the election. A PVT independently verifies whether official election results are accurate, because every vote should be counted and every voice should be heard. Journalists who write about elections. A PVT is a statistically rigorous and internationally accepted standard of gauging the accuracy or fraudulence of an election. The results of the PVT will help tell the story of the upcoming election by providing another data set against which to check election results. - Email press releases & press conferences

- Materials on website

- One-on-one phone interviews & quarterly conference calls

- Twitter

- Whatsapp group
- 30 percent open rate and 10 percent click-through rate for emails, 50 journalists attend conference and 20 write about it

- Page is visited 50 times per quarter

- Attendance of 12 journalists per call.

- At least one journalist DMs with us on Twitter regularly

- Journalist WhatsApp group membership is 100 or more
Members of the party in power A PVT verifies fair and accurate election results. Win or lose, great leaders respect the will of the people, when every vote is counted and every voice is heard. - One-on-one outreach to party leadership

-- Ads & op-eds in the The Daily Journal, The Weekly Magazine, and The Radio Newshour

-- Facebook ads
-2 meetings per quarter

-- Once a week placements

-- Click through rate to call to action is 40 percent
Members of the opposition party A PVT verifies that true results are known and dissuades fraud, because every vote should be counted and every voice should heard. - One-on-one outreach to the party leadership

- Ads in the Opposition Weekly

- Blast emails
- 2 meetings per quarter

- Weekly placements

- List is 250 people with an open rate of 25 percent
Young men ages 16-26 A PVT is a way of verifying that your voice is heard in these elections. - Facebook posts and videos

- Paid Facebook promotion
- 25,000 reach from this demographic per week; 10 percent engagement rate and average video watch is 15 seconds

- 25,000 reach from these ads and 5 percent conversion to page likes