Would you write the same letter to your mother on Valentines Day as you would to your sweetheart? Of course not. “Audience” makes a big difference in what we say and how we say it.
That’s why, in planning a program evaluation or needs assessment, we need to consider to whom the data and conclusions will be shown. It is the classic example of starting with the end in mind.
If you know that you will need to defend your program to a CEO or business manager who is focused on saving money, you may collect different data than you would if your CEO is focused on customer satisfaction. Knowing this early in program evaluation design is like knowing your goals.
Knowing your data audience can ensure that you collect all the data you will need, but no more than you need because you can focus your efforts and time on what is strategically critical.
What Do We Mean “Strategically“?
Your program is a strategy for retention, skill development or some other goal. It’s the way you will achieve that goal.
When you design the program, what you include and the way you do each component, are strategies to accomplish the program goals. Thinking this way is strategic thinking and planning.
The same concept is important for best practice program evaluation – Think Strategically.
How will the evaluation serve the program goals? How will the way you present the evaluation data, conclusions, and recommendations impact the readers of the report? Planning the “audience” for the results of the evaluation is thinking strategically – it forces you to ask and answer – WHO will read this? and “What do we need for them to learn? To understand, To decide to do relative to the program?
Defining and writing for “audience” is critical.