Measure Smarter Communications Campaigns

June 1, 2018


The guillotine was a cruel but effective measurement tool. At the macro scale, it told you something about the society and its evolving, or devolving, views on proper justice administration. Moreover, much like social media likes and shares, its engagement metrics were certainly measurable. And the platform didn’t care who the “user” was.

But if one wishes to track beyond head-counting (no pun intended) and delve deeper into the “why” behind communications measurement, then one must consider the value of formative primary research, particularly qualitative studies. There are several best practices involving qualitative approaches to consider:

Pre-launch checklist

First, while establishing specific campaign benchmarks up front will provide insights into progress and overall ROI, one must not forget the importance of assessing content prior to a launch. This is where one can explore, and find answers to, key questions such as:

  • Are your potential messages connecting effectively?
  • Are they credible coming from Client X? Are the messages compelling?
  • What misconceptions and information gaps exist?
  • What are the ideal information exchange vehicles?
  • Which brand attributes resonate most?
  • What larger trends may impact the perceptions and behaviors of key stakeholders?
  • Which information sources should be trusted and why?

Given the exploratory nature of these questions, the optimal study design is one that permits a rich and detailed exchange of ideas between the interviewer and respondent. Therefore, we strongly recommend opinion leader audits in the form of one-on-one in-depth interviews. Having a skilled and knowledgeable interviewer conduct the interview at a time and place of the respondent’s choosing helps ensure that each discussion, framed by a well-crafted guide, will yield as much useful information as possible.

Qualitative research

While most communications professionals focus on quantitative tracking studies as a default element of the post-benchmark study measurement program, qualitative research can, and should, allow mid-campaign course correction.

Having hopefully permeated the target audience’s consciousness, their awareness levels, attitudes and behaviors may have changed. Primary research in the form of qualitative studies can help clients explore why and how these critical elements may now be different. Focus groups, or the previously mentioned opinion leader audits, can solidify which words and phrases are working and not working.

For example, for one PR campaign, we scrutinized the potential for various client-stakeholder partnerships. By understanding in-depth how key stakeholder attitudes toward the client had changed since the launch of the campaign, we were able to design programming that reflected the new reality.

Lessons learned

Post-campaign or “end game” research can be a tougher sell. However, to obtain a holistic look at the successes and failures of a communications campaign, a “lessons learned” qualitative research program near the end of a project will allow the client to better understand their results and learn what changes to make for next time. 

Again, qualitative research can complement quantitative studies or stand on its own. For example, one client wanted to use in-depth interviews near the end of one initiative to not only explore utilization patterns for an opinion elite information exchange platform, but also to gather ideas for future conference topics and assess possible partnerships with influential stakeholders. The findings helped the client reinforce their thought-leadership positioning moving forward.

By employing classic qualitative methods and tools, albeit in a smart and “cutting-edge” manner, communications practitioners can increase the likelihood that their narratives, supporting messages and program concepts — informed through original primary research — will enable them to accomplish salient goals and objectives. Otherwise, the chopping block just might be in your future. 

Jason Booms

Jason Booms is the CEO of Booms Research & Communications, LLC, an opinion research and strategic communications consultancy. Reach him at:


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