How to Meaningfully Measure Success: A Brief Guide to Goal Setting, Project Planning, and Reporting



The communications world moves incredibly fast, making it easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of a project: measuring success. At Hawthorne, we take the task of measuring our outcomes against our expectations seriously and always strive to learn from past experiences to improve future efforts. In this blog, we will share the four keys to measuring success that we reference in all the work we do for our trusted clients.


  1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives: You cannot measure success without first defining it. By setting a goal, you are identifying what success means for the specific project. Each project will have its own set of goals, but there are a few goals all your projects should have in common to be considered effective and actionable. All goals and objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). If your goals satisfy these conditions, you will find it much easier to gauge your success at the end of the project in a clear, precise manner meaningful to your account team, clients, and your client’s stakeholders.

  2. Establish Accountability Checkpoints: Once your goals are set, it may be tempting to race toward the finish line as fast as possible; however, this often leads to less thoughtful work and risks missing the mark. A great way to combat that counterproductive urgency is to establish accountability checkpoints, or milestones, to reach throughout the project timeline. This will break your goals into smaller pieces and help you achieve success in a measured process. One strategy for deciding where and what these milestones will be is to work backward from your goal and consider what steps are necessary to achieve it. To stay accountable to these milestones, allocate time for reporting and progress updates with your entire team to ensure the team is on track.

  3. Reporting and Analysis: It’s important to identify the right tools and metrics to address elements that need to be satisfied in your goals. For example, if your goal is to reach a certain amount of engagement on social media, you will want to measure likes, comments, shares, and impressions in your reporting. Different goals will require different metrics, but no matter what you select, you should create a reporting process that ensures you are consistent and accountable. Another consideration for the reporting and analysis phase is identifying with whom the reports will be shared. If they are internal, you may be able to get very granular and technical in your reporting. If the reports will be client-facing, ensure you include clear definitions and explanations about how these metrics and reporting illustrate your progress and rate of success.

  4. Learn and Adjust: Once you complete your reporting and analysis, you should synthesize that data into clear, key takeaways from the project. This section of reporting should explain what was successful, what could use improvement, and how this could impact future projects. Make sure your forward-looking considerations are actionable and improve upon previous strategies and tactics using the information you’ve learned. Even if you are analyzing a one-time project that will not require further effort, it is important to complete this step to use as a point of reference for projects or events in the future.