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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“You need to insure there are sufficient distribution outlets and tools, that people have the ability to get their message out. How many campaigns have been developed that don't have the channels to distribute the messages effectively? Amazingly, too many groups haven't thought through their distribution channels.”
— Matt James, Kaiser Family Foundation

Monitoring the Media and Web to Gauge Advocacy Effectiveness

Have you planned your media strategy or developed a media plan? If you have, you should be in very good shape to accurately monitor your media results and to obtain critical and timely feedback. Monitoring the media can help inform your continuing reassessment of your policy goal, capacity-building goal and theory of change. You could choose to make your tracking efforts as simple as collecting media clips and recording interviews and public appearances by your organization's spokesperson. You should share this information with your grantmaker, your board and even with your membership or advocacy base, especially if you have a good media clip from a well-known publication or media channel. (Note: Get permission for reproduction from the publication or media channel if intended for external use.)

You should also consider upgrading to what we might call “Strategic Media Monitoring 2.0.” In addition to tracking the items above, you could engage in a more proactive and qualitative assessment of whether and how media coverage of your advocacy issue is shifting. This can be done by conducting periodic LexisNexis searches using relevant key words and then analyzing the results. Interns could help you perform this task at low cost to your organization. Other indications: Are you getting more calls from journalists? Do journalists reply to your calls more often? Are you noticing that your buzzwords are used more often by the media? Is your constituent base growing? Are your constituents more active?

Strategic Media Monitoring 2.0

  • If you have established a baseline on how the media has covered your issue, you can now monitor incremental changes, for better or worse. For instance, does the media mention your issue more often? Has the language used to describe the issue changed in any way?
  • Monitor your placements: Track where and when you secured them, and the responses each placement generated. Save copies of each placement. Share and publicize them as appropriate.
  • Monitor the coverage of your issue by key reporters. Continue to cultivate a relationship with them.
  • Monitor traffic to your Web site, especially after securing a print, radio or TV placement. If you have a separate “press room” on your Web site, monitor traffic to it.
  • If you have invested in paid media, it is critical to monitor what happened after you have placed an ad. Did traffic to your Web site increase (of course, make sure your web site is included in your ads)? Did your phone lines ring more often? Did more people sign your petition?
  • Engage your communications staff and your external PR consultants (if you have any) in your evaluation. Interview them, solicit their opinions on any qualitative change they have observed in media coverage, or in the responses they get from journalists when pitching the issue.
  • If you have engaged in a media partnership, you could interview your point person at the publication or media channel. Has she/he perceived a change in coverage of the issue? Is senior management at the media channel excited about this partnership? Are they satisfied with the results so far? What can be done to further engage the channel? Could there be a next phase of this engagement? Most importantly, can they quantify their in-kind contribution in unpaid media in this partnership?
  • Last but certainly not least, have you used the internet in your advocacy? If you did, it is time to track statistics like e-mail open rates, click-through rates, Web site visits, records of how many people used the 'send-a-friend' feature, etc. Capture this information for your evaluation. Upgrading to Media Monitoring 2.0 requires going beyond the numerical records and proactively seeking feedback from your constituents. What motivated members of your constituency to take action? How did their friends react when they received a forwarded action alert? What happened in the office of the Congressperson who received all these e-mails?

TIPS

  • The Internet helps you monitor media results at low cost. Google and other information aggregators let users set up free news tracker tools, and will even provide media reports in your inbox for free. Most media outlets have searchable Web sites. For more money, of course, you can use LexisNexis for a more comprehensive and detailed review.
  • Online activities can be tracked and measured at relatively low cost.
  • Encourage your constituents to write stories and send them to you. These stories are powerful tools for your evaluation; they help you track the progress of your constituency building efforts.
  • Podcasts and online journals from the field can also be used as input for your evaluation.
  • Remember to track effect of paid media or advertising. You need this information for the next time you consider paying for media space. If you have secured unpaid media, track its results as well.
  • If you're getting more calls from reporters, or even if they return yours, it's a very good sign of progress. Track it!