Measuring Your Impact

One of the biggest challenges to creating effective social and environmental narratives with proven impact is the lack of clear case studies evaluating the power of entertainment-education. Measuring the impact of a message enables organizations to evaluate the success of a project, report to funders, and draw up best practices. Independent research organizations, university-based professionals, or groups like the Harmony Institute generally conduct evaluations for entertainment campaigns.

Measuring impact is based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures. To gain quantitative information, communicators should conduct a base-line survey of their audience before the launch of their project to understand their perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors on an issue like net neutrality. This information can then be contrasted with results from one or more post-air surveys. When developing a survey, evaluators consider:

• What is the audience's size and characteristics?
• What does the audience know or think they know about the issue?
• What is the audience's attitude toward the issue? How likely are they to share these opinions with others?
• What is the audience’s behavior around this issue?
• What is the audience's belief in their ability to influence the issue? Do they feel they have adequate support to influence the issue? Have they taken any action?
• How has the entertainment influenced the answers to these questions?

Depending on the entertainment medium, online web analytics, broadcast ratings, and ticket sales also supply information about audience size, duration, and number of viewings, as well as how and where the campaign is being shared (i.e., through social media, press, or word-of-mouth). Qualitative evaluations can provide more in-depth understanding of how audiences identify with the issue after viewing the entertainment. Responses to the media project can be solicited through direct correspondence with viewers as well as mined from public meetings or online discussion boards.

The key questions asked while assessing the impact of entertainment on audiences will help improve the methods entertainment creators and educators use to support social concerns like net neutrality. Building on previous work, these studies can contribute to a greater understanding of how people understand and why they take action on an issue. Such insights have the capacity to transform the advocacy world as a whole.