The final step in implementing an effective communications strategy is the examination of the degree to which key messages and methods of communication have had the desired impact. An evaluation may involve collecting data, conducting a survey, or polling the target audience.
A communication evaluation often looks at the following measures:
- what the strategy achieved;
- how effective the messages were;
- whether the target audience remembers the message: Did they understand the issues? And, most importantly, did it change their thinking or behavior?
Additional measures may also be a part of a successful evaluation including:
- Number of activities, materials, or other efforts related to the implementation of the strategy, such as how many leaflets were distributed, how many community meetings were held, etc.
- Ability of the target audience to recall and recognize the key messages.
- Effectiveness of the strategy determined by shifts in target audience behavior or attitudes. For example, survey the target audience before and after the launch of a communication strategy and compare the results.
Polling is an important way to assess whether the audience heard the message; if the messages changed perspectives or behavior; if the message evoked a positive or negative response; and to what degree change occurred.
It is important to be realistic about what communication efforts can achieve—and how quickly they can achieve it. Coral reef-related communication strategies often aim for behavior change at multiple levels of society (individual, community, state, or national) and address hard-to-achieve challenges including changing behaviors, beliefs, or public norms. While communication can help change the way people see an issue or persuade people to make a certain decision (about what to buy, what fishing method to use, or who to vote for), a significant attitude shift from a single communication effort is unlikely. To achieve long-term change in behavior, Social Marketing should be considered.