Step 6: Monitoring and Reporting
Monitor your progress, make changes as needed and keep all stakeholders in the loop as the campaign rolls out. Document and report what you learned with the field.
Learn as you go: Track results and make adjustments
In the excitement of a newly launched campaign, with all of its moving parts, it’s easy to lose track of your primary objective. Keep asking yourself: Is the target audience doing what you want them to do?
To track your progress, start collecting the information you need from the very start. Make sure that every component of your campaign is associated with one or more pieces of data.
Effective campaigns learn as they go, adjusting their strategies as the environment changes and as new results come in. Focus on hard numbers connected to specific actions, such as participation at events, calls to your toll-free number, visits to key pages of your website, user survey results, and some measure of the ultimate campaign objective.
Softer sources of data are also important. They can help round out the story behind the hard numbers and raise flags about possible trends. Useful feedback may include in-depth interviews, casual observations and other anecdotal information. Good sources include organizations or people in direct contact with your target audience.
Track what is happening
Collect data that will help you answer these kinds of questions:
- Is there evidence of progress toward the campaign’s primary objective?
- Are some target audiences or portions of target audiences responding more than others?
- What can we do to expand our reach or better focus our resources on those most likely to respond?
- Which campaign activities have been most or least successful?
- What are the relative costs (including staff time) and benefits of each activity? Which gives the most bang for the buck?
- Which should be continued and strengthened, and which should be dropped or substantially changed?
- Could our successful activities work for other relevant audiences or situations?
- Is there any new or different information that needs to be incorporated into the program messages or design?
- Are partner organizations doing what they committed to do? What effect is their performance or workstyle having on the campaign?
Refer to your overall objectives and goals as you develop tracking measures for your campaign. Say, for example, that your objective is to get more students enrolled in AP courses, and one of your goals is a 15 percent increase in Hispanic enrollment over three years.
To assess your progress, you’ll need data along the following lines:
- Baselines: The numbers and demographics of students taking and not taking AP courses before the launch of your campaign.
- Tracking: Regular reports of changes in AP enrollment, broken down by race/ethnicity, with as much additional information as possible about who’s taking and dropping AP classes, such as:
- Whether they’ve taken and passed such classes before
- Demographics such as income, family composition, etc.
- Shifts in awareness about AP classes and/or intentions to take them. (These may be important predictors of actual changes in AP enrollment, or they may be the only things that change – the only way to know is to measure as you go.)
- Effectiveness and Outcomes: Both during and after the campaign, find ways to document what differences your campaign made, such as these:
- Were students who recognized your campaign slogan more likely to enroll in AP classes than those who didn’t recognize it?
- Did enrollment levels rise, stay steady or fall after your campaign ended?
- Did new AP participants go to college at higher rates than their counterparts who didn’t take AP classes?
- What happened to those who enrolled but didn’t pass?
Plan to make adjustments
Be on the lookout for unintended consequences, which are especially common in new fields such as CAM. For example, a campaign about guaranteed financial aid for students with GPAs above a certain level may undermine the college plans of students with lower grades. Keep potential side effects in mind as you design your monitoring and evaluation plan.
No campaign ever goes exactly as planned. The most important and immediate use for the information you gather is to fix things that aren’t working as intended.
Assume from the start that you’ll be gathering and using data throughout the campaign. Set a schedule, based on key points in the implementation process, for analyzing the data and considering changes.
Depending on what you learn, these changes may involve the message, timing, audience, or other aspects of your campaign. Document any changes you make, and adjust your monitoring and evaluation measures so that they keep track of what you’re actually doing instead of what you originally intended to do.
Leave a legacy: document, evaluate and share your efforts with the field
The design for your campaign should include a plan for sharing your experiences with others. Plan to share a range of information with different audiences at different stages of the campaign – not just issue one big report at the end. And remember that your campaign planning materials, as well as tracking and outcome data, may be invaluable to future CAM efforts.
- Key audiences include campaign partners, supportive political leaders, funders, successors at your agency, the media, and fellow CAM practitioners across the country.
- Reporting methods may include e-mail updates, presentations, testimony, and circulating tracking data, evaluation reports and copies of marketing products.
For example, organizations participating in the campaign may be motivated by regular e-mail updates about the campaign’s progress. In contrast, funders may require more detailed reporting on a less frequent schedule.
Share your experience
Save your planning documents and research to share with others in the field who can learn from your experience. If you haven’t already done so, submit your materials to be posted on this Go Alliance site.
Don’t just hype the good news. Honestly discussing what did not work well will improve your credibility. You also help strengthen the whole CAM field when you help others avoid your mistakes. By learning from each other’s experiences, our combined efforts will become that much more effective.
The SREB Go Alliance program provides technical assistance in planning and running college access marketing campaigns. It also facilitates a network of state agencies and college access programs in order to share best practices and replicate successful programs.