How to Weigh Words: The 100-Year Approach to Evaluating Communications
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
"Words should be weighed and not counted."
How do you measure the impact of your communications? Especially when you're out to change society in complex ways, it can be really hard to draw a causal line between your communications and how the world is changing.
In the 100-Year PR Plan, I argue that it is far more important that you understand how the world is changing than whether you specifically caused it. This requires having a precise sense of how things need to change in order for your goal to be realized.
The main area I'm interested in is how shifting the strength and purpose of keywords enables change. For example, those advocating to end sexual violence have sought to:
1) Expand the range of situations people recognize as falling into the category of "sexual violence"
2) normalize a certain societal reaction when the label "sexual violence" is applied to someone's behaviour (e.g. condemnation, dismissal from employment, prosecution and conviction, etc.).
Once you have a specific sense of how you want a word to change and how you want it to produce a different reaction than the status quo, you can track its shifting contours and weight by looking at the cases in which it is invoked:
A) Was it accepted widely as including the situation you want it to label?
B) Did it produce the societal reaction you are seeking?
C) How much resistance did it face to (A) or (B)?
If you want to be scientific about it, there are a lot more variables to control for. But if you are just trying to get a sense of the shifting weight of words, a spreadsheet that answers these few questions for as many cases as you can manage will go a long way.
For more insights on this theme see "Chapter 10: You May Not Get Value for Money".