Methods for evidencing impact from media engagement in the four categories above range from highly accurate but costly methods, to those you can use for free if you plan ahead and have enough time. In this final section, I am going to pull together a carefully selected combination of these methods that are regularly used effectively to evaluate the significance of impact arising from media coverage.
The three key methods are: 1) social media analysis; 2) a funnel approach in which you direct a proportion of an audience to a website or other mechanism where you can follow up with them; and 3) before/after polling of media audiences.
Each of these methods does three important things:
They demonstrate the significance of impact by identifying and describing the benefits that arise from media engagement
They use a sample of the population who engaged with the media. It isn’t possible to survey every person who listened, watched or read about the research, but it is possible to find out if a sample of those people benefited in any way. The more expensive methods work with statistically robust samples, but if you are evaluating impact on a tight budget it is possible to triangulate your findings using other methods, so that you can still say something with confidence with a biased sample
They demonstrate cause and effect between the research and the benefits, so any impacts claimed are clearly attributable to the research. There are two types of causation you might want to try and prove. Necessary causation shows that the research was necessary to generate the impacts that arose via the media. Sufficient causation shows that the research could in theory have generated the impact, and you then need further evidence to build an argument that despite other factors also being plausible (or even probable), the research did indeed play a significant role. A third, weaker form is contributory causation, where the research may have been one of many contributing factors, and it is not possible to disentangle these competing/confounding factors to show that the research played a significant role.