Insight #4: Assessing Effectiveness

In a recent lab assignment for my Communications course Integrated Strategic Communications, taught by Dr. John McArthur of Queens University of Charlotte, I was to conduct a media release for an upcoming event in Charlotte. Making sure that it was localized was a big deal; ensuring that people feel connected to the event. If it’s here in Charlotte, make it accessible to the Charlotte community. In hopes of producing an effective media release, the media should feel it’s importance and relevance to the Charlotte community, while the other audiences feel it is the event of the season!

There are four research methods that strategic communication researchers suggest can predict a successful outcome of the media release. According to Fraser P. Seitel, author of The Practice of Public Relations, the four methods are: surveys; designed to reveal attitudes/opinions of public, interviews; provide a firsthand feel for public opinion, communication audits; show disparities between real and perceived communications between management and target audiences, and unobtrusive methods; fact-finding, content analysis, and readability studies (Seitel). Within these methods are various practices to test out the success of a media release. The first one that stuck out to me in relation to my own media releases success was a questionnaire.

A media release is a very important component. It is crucial to gain the positive perspective of the media, while also maintaining the relate-ability factor with other audiences it might target. A questionnaire is one of the survey elements (Seitel). They represent one of the simplest forms for finding information. In ancient times, a questionnaire was mailed to your door step. Today, they’re sent to your email. Ah, the ease of life. In regards to my media release on the comedy event Stand Up for Dogs and Cats, a questionnaire could be distributed to each person in attendance. A key thing to remember when designing a questionnaire: keep it short. If a fifty question questionnaire was passed around or emailed to the attendees, it’s safe to say almost none would be completed. But, if it only had ten questions that didn’t require written responses (another key thing to remember: structured vs. open-ended questions), just checking (dis)satisfied, (non)entertaining, yes or no, there are better odds. The questionnaire would tell me the gist of what the audience thought; if they had a great time for a great cause: success, or wishing they hadn’t wasted their time and money: fail.

While a questionnaire remains short and sweet, an interview can gain what the questionnaire lacks: details. Why a person was, or wasn’t satisfied; this measure of success can come from just a thirty-second interview. The face-to-face interview style could be done as the audience members are exiting the event. I’ve attended early movie showings, and this is the method they use as everyone is exiting the theater. Every couple of willing people, they stop and ask their opinion on the movie. They hear answers based on the scenes, plot, actors, cinematography, etc. This face-to-face interview would be great as the audience members are leaving, because everything it still fresh in their mind. It serves the purpose of an open-ended questionnaire; grasping their entire perspective on the event, in their words.

Communication audits is the third method, measuring a critical component: whether communications have met predetermined objectives and goals (Seitel). To sum it up, a researcher studies all literature about the organization, reviews it in terms of comparing and contrasting, and interviews with top management; all to find any commonalities or discontinuity. In my case, research on The Humane Society of Charlotte, The Comedy Zone of Charlotte, and The Charlotte Animal Welfare Meetup Group would be conducted, interviewing all that contributed to this event. Upon the researchers conclusion, recommendations are proposed that would help attain the overall goal. The success of this could be determined once feedback is received from the event.

The final method, unobtrusive data collection, is the most widely used for simple fact-finding. Research from this method can be obtained without audience contact. Simple content analysis describes a message (Seitel). To practice this on my media release, I could simply view the placement within the paper. An important factor is how easily accessible the event information is, which won’t reach many people if it’s on page 52 of the paper instead of page 1. Also, the viewing numbers; finding out how many people it reached due to the number of views it got on the web. These few examples of simple content analysis could help me determine the success of my media release quite easily; all I have to do is a little independent research.

For more information on what measures the success of a media release, refer to Fraser P. Seitel’s book The Practice of Public Relations.

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