Indiana Evaluation Association Week: Journalists Use It. You Can Too by Kyle Hannon

Kyle Hannon

Hi! I am Kyle Hannon of Filibuster Press and Secretary of the Indiana Evaluation Association. When I used to work in public relations, I learned what journalists needed to help spread my story. As I work with community development projects today, it is still important for me to able to tell my story to the media. And it helps when the projects are developed, and evaluated, with story-telling questions in mind.

For a set of guiding questions, we turn to our journalist friends. The first paragraph of a newspaper story is called the “lead.” To capture the gist of the entire story and make you want to read more, reporters try to include all the key elements of the story into a single paragraph, the very first thing you read. They do this by including Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.  Five Ws and an H. When I write news releases, I always start with a good lead. (See Purdue Online Writing Lab: How to Write a Lead.)

These are the same questions to direct the creation and evaluation of programs. The Five Ws and an H are highlighted in Michael Quinn Patton’s Flash Card #2, Evaluation Questions. This framework makes sure you have identified the target audience and methods of the program. An added benefit is that our evaluation is created in a pattern that fits the needs of journalism when it comes time to share the news of the program’s success.

  • Who – What target population, specifically, are you trying to serve? How is this target different from everybody else? The evaluation will help determine if that is the audience you actually served.
  • What – What is the program and how does it intend to help? Is it different from other programs out there?
  • When – What is the program time frame and when does it start? You may end up needing more time, or less, but this gives you a reference for evaluation.
  • Where – What is the location of the program, both the administration and the headquarters? Does the location affect the outcome of the project?
  • Why – Why is your program important? What need are you trying to address? Are other programs also trying to meet this need?
  • How – How will this program meet its goals. What new tactics are you planning and how will those make a difference? What are you trying to do and did your program actually do it?

Working from this basic framework, you can refine the purpose of the program so that it is something important for your community. Just as importantly, you also set a framework to evaluate the success of that program. Using the five Ws and the H, you will have a program that addresses identified needs and hopes. At the same time, it will be easier for news sources to spread the good news about your successful project if it uses the same framework they use to share news. Not only will journalists appreciate this approach, but lawmakers, agency directors, and foundation leaders will be comfortable with the project. 

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The American Evaluation Association is hosting Indiana Evaluation Association (IEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from IEA members. 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@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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