End-of-year/end-of-program reviews show you how well you met your stated objectives, but a midpoint evaluation can help you adjust course as needed to make your end results as positive as possible. Since the PR Writer focuses on writing (obviously!), we’ll be looking at the midpoint reviews from the perspective of the many types of content initiatives you’ve been doing (e.g., press releases, videos, case studies, infographics, white papers, podcasts, blog posts, tweets, etc.) Here are the review questions you should be asking yourself:
1. Are Your Current Content Efforts Aligned with Your Objectives?
Sometimes professional communicators hop on a content trend before considering if and how it will contribute to their organization’s goals. Taking a risk and trying something new is indeed the way to move forward, but it isn’t enough to do something like start a podcast series simply because a competitor is doing it, because an expert recommended it, or because it’s just so cool. Always be sure you can articulate why and how an activity is tied to an organizational objective (e.g., maintaining or improving stakeholder relations, increasing targeted online traffic, increasing sales, etc.).
2. What’s the Criteria for Success?
It’s easy to consider media coverage, a huge number of social media followers, etc. (also known as your output) as indicators of success. But eventually the coverage, followers, etc. should translate into increased leads, sales, changed attitudes or whatever the desired outcome is. If you can’t tell whether or not it does, you may need to add another measurement such as tracking where your online traffic is coming from and/or asking“How did you hear about us?” So, take a hard look at the criteria you’re using. Are they genuine measures of success or are they a means of bringing about an actual objective (e.g., you’ll be directing those social followers to your website or relevant landing page, and a significant percentage of them are qualified to make a purchase or take some other desired action). Or are the criteria meaningless?
3. Are the Content Tools You Use Appropriate?
You’ve most likely received a ton of recommendations for social media platforms and content tools designed to make your life easier and/or expand the reach of your message. However, since organizations have different cultures, time constraints, etc. few tools and resources are ideal for everyone. So, during your midpoint review, evaluate the tools in your content toolkit. Eliminate those that you’re not using (and aren’t likely to).
For the others, ask yourself the following:
- Is it performing as expected?
- If not, are you following best practices? (If you are, then consider eliminating or swapping it out for something else)
- Is it time to upgrade?
4. Which Communication/Promotion Channels Deliver the Best ROI?
Where are your clients/customers currently coming from? If particular channels are really working for you, consider streamlining your efforts by focusing time and money investments on those channels.
5. What Are Your Opportunities and Areas for Improvement?
Once you’ve put your initial plans into action, your actions and their results may spark new ideas for furthering your objectives. For example, you may think of an easy way to add another stream of revenue or expand a promotion or, e.g., bundling blog posts into an e-book.
On the other hand, you may find gaps or weaknesses in your PR or marketing activities. E.g., your company persona as presented across various communication platforms may be erratic (that is, instead of presenting a coherent company brand, the persona appears significantly different, even in opposition to the brand image you’re aiming for, on different platforms). Also, reviewing initiatives that received a good response as well as those that did not can provide you with insights that can help you refine your efforts. E.g., you may find that you may be overlooking online and real-world places or events where you could be connecting with customers and prospects.
6. What Does Testing Show?
If you think you know how to improve weak areas or take advantage of discovered opportunities, it’s a good idea to test that premise. If you have the time and resources, select subgroups of your market segments and subject each group to a test of the change you’re considering. Then as you see how the subgroup responds to the altered initiative, you’ll know if you were correct.
7. What Should You Do After the Review?
Now that you know what’s impeding your campaign, you’re ready to move forward. Eliminate deadwood tactics and add new goals, ideas and improvements to your program strategy or plans for the year.
Be sure to write down your findings from the preceding steps and add those notes to your strategy documentation to aid you in the final review. By keeping records, you’ll reduce the likelihood of selective perception and personal bias interfering with your interpretation of how activities, tools and events contributed to success or failure. What other content marketing questions would you recommend?