Measuring the impact of online messaging to students.

My blog post originally written for the Student Affairs Women Talk Tech blog:

Born in 1872, E. St. Elmo Lewis was an early pioneer in advertising. In 1898, he proposed a theory of communication commonly referred to by its acronym A-I-D-A or awareness, interest, desire, action. This theory, based on studies of the life insurance industry, described “four cognitive phases that buyers follow when accepting a new idea or purchasing a new product”xvii These phases are hierarchical and start with the presumptions that in order for a motivation to act or purchase to occur, several antecedent conditions have to be met that are typically dependent on external stimuli such as advertising, public relations, or direct sales.

These necessary and sequential stages are:
• Awareness that the product or service or service exists
• Interest in the product and the benefits the product or service offers the buyer
• Desire for the product or service

It is only by moving through these first three stages, that the fourth stage – Action or the actual purchase of the product or service – takes place. This four stage process has traditionally been represented as a “sales funnel”.

Public Relations Journal Vol. 5, No. 2, Spring 2011
ISSN 1942-4604
© 2011 Public Relations Society of America

Standardization in Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation
David Michaelson and Don W. Stacks


To me this information is great start to planning out how to approach starting your own brand, or analyzing the way we market our offices to students. This article goes further to say the the PR field started to add customer satisfaction to the list of things to measure but now:

At later stages in the lifecycle, the analysis needs to shift to determine the proportion of messages that communicate knowledge, interest or intent to act.

Are we sending out enough messages to students that are directly proportional to the amount of attention, usage, or real time communication we’re looking for?

The PR world seems to look for standard info the way that we assess say our Late Nite program. Number of folks participating, how much we spent per person, number of events, and the ‘volume of coverage’ or maybe the types of students attending these events. They want to expand however to look at two other measures. The first is “measuring the impact of communication activities on the target audience”. The second is “measuring the delivery of those messages through third parties or intermediaries such as the media.”

I definitely feel like this is an immediate topic for many folks who are interested in social media and making connections/building community through these outlets with their students. We need to learn how to measure the impact of social media on our students. Are we getting our messages across? Our we using social media to bring the students to us face-to-face? Are we creating an environment that pulls students in based on our content etc.?

Should University websites include Meebo-type chat rooms to give off campus students and others a chance to ask questions “after hours.” Should we have printed materials like brochures any more? Should we have online videos? And if we go to the trouble of doing all this – how do we measure the outcomes?

Some ideas from this journal article suggest the following:

(Awareness) Recall Assessment – Find out what they remember: “Thinking back to what you have just (read/ observed/ reviewed/ saw), place an X in the boxes for the (brands/ products/services/ issues/ topics) that you remember (reading/ observing/ reviewing/ seeing).” Aided or unaided assessment done with someone or by themselves.

(Awareness) Knowledge Testing -Quizing students to a certain extent on what they’ve learned about said program, event etc.

(Interest) Measure the Interest – Does our office/program etc. offer you something you are interested in?

(Desire) Measure of Preference – Which page on our website do you look at the most? What offices do you need to know the most about?

(Action) Measure of Specified Action – “Based on everything you have (seen/read/ heard/observed) about this (brand, product, service, issue, topic), how likely are to (purchase/try/support) this (brand, product, service, issue, topic). Would you say you are “very likely”, “somewhat likely”, “neither likely nor unlikely,” “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely” to (purchase/try/support) this (brand/product/service/ issue/ topic)?”

The second measure this article suggests is getting feedback and doing an evaluation with outside parties. I really like this concept. Who better to judge your website than a “rival” office on campus? If there’s an office on campus that’s just killing it in terms of an awesome website, or Twitter feed, or whatever that you find valuable and interesting – why not have them evaluate it for you? I don’t necessarily mean your Communications & Marketing folks either. I mean another office that you truly see utilizing their online resources to the best of their ability.

Have them look for:

• Presence of key messages
• Presence of erroneous messages
• Absence of key messages

Please let me know if you are currently working to develop standards for your marketing, web presence etc. Let’s start a discussion!

One thought on “Measuring the impact of online messaging to students.

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