Several years ago my organization began gathering and tracking data about public perception. As part of a larger survey of community residents conducted by one of our partners, we began asking residents to respond (on a scale of strongly agree to strongly disagree) to the following statements:
- The library is a top institution in the community.
- The library is a community champion for pre-K to 3rd grade literacy.
- The library is a community champion for equal access to digital resources and skills.
- The library is a community champion for equal access to resources citizens need to improve their lives.
These statements were crafted to measure public perceptions of the relevancy of the library as well as our role in addressing community challenges.
Once we received results from the first year, our Marketing & Communications team began aligning our communications plan with these measures. We created a measurable objective to increase the percentages, and began tailoring our strategies and tactics accordingly.
Since we could only repeat the survey once a year, it served as a “lagging indicator” of public perception, so we also began tracking “leading indicators” to inform our progress during the year. These included social media metrics, email open and click rates, web click-throughs and other means of measuring communication effectiveness. Our logic was that if we could increase the leading indicators, the lagging indicators would follow suit.
Happily, four years later, we have indeed seen a significant increase in these perceptions. The most dramatic increase was the percentage of people who agreed with the statement “the library is a top institution in the community,” which grew from 85% in 2015 to 95% in 2018.
This increase was predicted by many of our leading indicators. For example, the publicity value of media coverage about the library increased from about $1 million in 2015 to $2.8 million in 2017 – in large part due to a partnership with a local tv station. Similarly, social media followership increased 75% during that same time period; and email clicks increased from an average of 78,000 per month to 88,000 per month from 2017 to 2018.