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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

How do you measure success? To be great – evaluate!

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

A hand is placing 5 stars on wooden blocks

Was your communication successful? Did it achieve the desired outcomes? Did the audience pay attention, engage, learn, and take the action steps you recommended? Did it meet or exceed their expectations? Would they give it "5 stars"?

To know the answers to these questions, you must complete Step 10 in the 10 Steps to Creating Compelling Communication – which is to evaluate.

This final step is not only essential at the conclusion of your project but should take place alongside all of the other 9 steps:

1. Identifying your audience,

2. Conducting a needs assessment,

3. Determining your purpose and key points,

4. Researching current, accurate, and useful supporting evidence,

5. Writing and organizing your message,

6. Identifying communication channels,

7. Planning effective communication strategies,

8. Reviewing, practicing, pilot testing, and revising,

9. Presenting, producing, or publishing.

10. Evaluating

This step evaluates your effectiveness from start to finish and includes evaluating the process as well as the result. Let’s take a closer look.

Evaluation is essential to the success of nutrition communication

Without evaluation, how can you prove a communication project or endeavor was successful? Evaluation provides the evidence. Instead of responding to the question “How did it go?” with “Okay, I guess,” you can say, “90% of the audience gave it 5 stars” or “Knowledge scores improved from 50% to 85% correct.”

Ideally, evaluation requires a baseline as well as a finish line. Planning to evaluate causes the communicator to assess where the audience is prior to the communication as well as determine measurable outcomes to shoot for and establish practical means to measure success.

Evaluation engages the audience and motivates learning and taking action

When we assess an audience’s needs, get their input on messages and other communication decisions, analyze their response to delivery approaches, measure audience outcomes, and evaluate audience perceptions, the audience gains significant benefits.

Consider this: Testing knowledge promotes learning in addition to measuring it. Asking about attitudes and behaviors can promote positive adjustments in attitudes and prompt taking action.

An engaged audience is more receptive to your messages, especially if they were involved in the development of content and approach. When an audience is given the opportunity to provide input and feedback, they view the communication more favorably.

Evaluation is required to prove resources were allocated appropriately

Satisfying the funding source may be the initial reason for including evaluation in your planning, but it is by no means the only reason to evaluate. Resources are almost always limited, and evaluation ensures they are properly allocated and the communication results in the desired outcomes.

Evaluation is essential throughout the development and implementation of a project

Although evaluation is often thought of as something occurring at the end of a project or endeavor, you now know that it begins with assessing an audience’s needs and continues throughout communication development and implementation.

These early evaluation efforts provide valuable insights for later evaluation, which is designed to measure outcomes and assess the effectiveness of strategies used.

Additionally, evaluation continues as one communication project or endeavor leads into the next with learnings from one's successes and mistakes informing all decisions moving forward.

Chapter 38 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide includes this helpful figure illustrating how evaluation fits into every stage of nutrition communication development:

Table describing 5 stages of communication development, questions to be asked and evaluation type and function for each stage.
Used with permission from: Quick V. “Measure Success with Testing and Evaluation” In Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Chicago. 2020, page 587.

5 Tips for Effectively Evaluating Communication

For more on evaluation, including why we so often shy away from it, read Don’t fear evaluation – embrace it! From that post, get a copy of the 5 tips for effectively evaluating communication.

Tip sheet listing 5 tips for effectively evaluating communication

What communications are you currently creating? Where are you in the 10 steps? Remember: No matter where you are in the process, evaluate!

If you want to demonstrate success - evaluate!

“Testing and evaluating messages or projects improves the effectiveness of the communications, engages the target audience, and more wisely allocates investments. ~ Virginia Quick, PhD, RDN

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