Catherine Rain on Going Public: Communicating Findings like a Pro!

I’m Catherine Rain of Rain and Brehm Consulting Group, Inc., a research and evaluation firm in Rockledge, Florida. Ever look at an evaluation project overflowing with new learning and fantastic results and wonder: What now? What can we do with this valuable information –beyond writing a report or peer-review publishing?

How about taking it public with a communications strategy, targeting various segments of the community and the field?

Such campaigns:

  • Educate policy-makers and decision-makers, as well as beneficiaries of services;
  • Leverage data, bringing recognition and benefactors to the program or service;
  • Positively re-frame attitudes about problems and risks affecting the community; and
  • Demonstrate accountability and transparency among tax-supported providers of programs and services.

Okay: sounds like you might need to hire an expensive marketing firm, right?  Wrong! With a couple of no-cost tools, you can become the marketing pro!

Lesson Learned: Planning a communications strategy is similar to planning an evaluation.  Carrying it forward, beginning to end resembles the process of designing, implementing and evaluating a program or service.  Communicating with various ‘markets’ requires you to shape messages in the same way you tailor those directed at an evaluated population: with relevance, in a language they understand, and with sensitivity to their culture, values and traditions!

Rad Resource: The Pink Book, otherwise known by its longer name Making Health Communication Programs Work developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides you with everything you need to know about planning, designing, implementing and evaluating a communication strategy. While the book addresses health communications, the strategies easily transfer to any evaluated discipline. Note: hard copies of the book are no longer available; however, you can download the document or print it in HTML and PDF versions (option to print page or whole document).

Lesson Learned:  As with evaluation and program implementation: Planning remains the key to success!

Rad Resource: Under contract, our firm authored the publication Translating Evaluation Results to Published Documents which summarizes Stage 1–Planning and Strategy Development—contained in the Pink Book. We analogize the approach to steps taken when designing and developing a program management or evaluation plan.

Hot Tip: There is a time and resource cost to producing an effective communications strategy.

Rad Resource: Funders often require evaluators to disseminate results and lessons learned. Ask if you can fund the communications strategy as a dissemination budget line item.

Hot Tip:  According to our colleague and AEA Executive Director Susan Kistler, evaluation roles are changing! We need to redefine our approaches with clients in meaningful ways. What better than to extend our communication avenues?

Rad Resource: Susan Kistler The Future of Evaluation: 5 Predictions (building on 10 others!) .

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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