Once each element of the social marketing mix is considered ready to go, the full program is put into effect and monitored to assure that it stays on target. It is essential that feedback systems are in place in order to catch any problems, especially those that could escalate into major ones. These indicators of implementation success may include media monitoring and analysis, evaluation of program activities and issues/marketing monitoring.
When marketing programs seek mass media coverage for their promotional activities--whether public relations efforts (e.g., press conferences, community events) or public service announcements--they need to be able to evaluate the success of these activities. The most effective way to discover media "hits" (coverage) is by subscribing to a clippings service, such as Burrelle's or Luce. these organizations scan tens of thousands of newspapers and watch hundreds of television news programs daily, clipping articles and transcribing stories that deal with the marketing program's specified topics. These clips are sent out within a couple of days, and have attached to them a tag noting the source, date and circulation (or viewership) of that source.
The next step is for the researcher to analyze the clips qualitatively, assessing the messages each contains and the accuracy or desirability of those messages. Ideally, all of the available information about each clip should be entered into a database, from which a statistical analysis can be drawn. This analysis should include information about placement volume, target audience impressions, message content and quality measures. If a communications strategy was devised prior to the activity, this analysis can help to assess its effectiveness. The results can provide implications for placement activities in the future.
It is also possible to track the frequency of play for the program's broadcast PSAs. Arbitron MediaWatch, a subscribable service, monitors television to determine when PSAs air. However, it does not identify the particular spots within a campaign or report on competitors' PSAs, unless paid to track each one, and it only covers the top 75 U.S. markets.
Another method of evaluating use of PSAs, for radio or television, is through bounceback cards. These are short questionnaires on the back of business reply cards that are packaged with the PSA, and meant to be completed and returned by the station's public service director. The questions could include rating the importance of the issue compared with other issues, and rating the quality of the PSA compared with other PSAs. A major drawback of bounceback cards is their traditionally low response rate, both from those who do and do not run the PSAs. However, they are one of the few means of tracking radio play. Another option is to do a follow-up study of public service directors, interviewing them about their perceptions and use of the program's PSAs.
In addition to mass media placement, the program must evaluate the impact of its activities upon the people who participate in them or see the coverage. These components might include special events, community events, speakers programs, retail promotions, direct mail, collateral materials or other outreach efforts. When these activities will be repeated a number of times, evaluation allows revision and improvement. Indicators of success in program activities may include the number of media placements, number of people trained, number of posters produced and distributed, responses to direct mail or calls to a toll-free number. This monitoring can be done inexpensively and rapidly, and can help to keep the program on target.
In order to stay on top of trends and developments in the field, the social marketing program should track changes and events that have strategic implications. This may include monitoring media coverage, attitude surveys, legislative initiatives or other important developments. This may be done easily, though not cheaply, through news and information databases, such as the AP wire, Nexis/Lexis, and legislative tracking systems such as Washington Alert. This and the other elements of research and evaluation in the implementation stage are designed to keep the program on track through revisions and improvements.
© Weinreich Communications 2006