Paradoxically, we communicators tend to communicate badly when it comes to evaluating and reporting on our efforts. Rarely do we take the time to assess results and share best practices as well as lessons learned. This generally inadequate performance in the area of evaluation has undermined our reputation and credibility—particularly in this era of heightened corporate expectations with respect to accountability, transparency and return on investment. Today, reporting on evaluation results is no longer a “nice to do” for your communications team; it’s critical.
Now, not just any kind of report will do, of course. The point is not to produce a self-serving report on all the great activities you undertook and the wonderful goals that were met. This sort of cheerleading that’s designed to justify a communication team’s existence can be spotted from miles away, and doesn’t impress anyone.
Instead, give a nuanced interpretative report on a full range of findings. For example, your Quarterly Communications Evaluation Report might highlight the strong performance of an outreach program and speaking tour—and also be frank about the weak results of a social media campaign. The focus should be on providing analysis as to why some tactics were successful and others were not, and then to use this lessons-learned perspective to adjust your actions going forward.
Communicating about evaluation can certainly be a vulnerable experience, since you’ll potentially be highlighting gaps or disappointments. However, this kind of transparency—and the demonstrated commitment to understanding shortfalls and addressing them proactively—is the kind of strategic behaviour that executives look for and applaud. Communicating about evaluation results shows your commitment to performance, accountability and continuous improvement.
You owe it to yourself and to your team not just to evaluate, but to communicate what you find out. You’ll be glad you did—it’s one of those small-ish things that produces big results.