The end of one year and start of another is an ideal time to review what has worked over the past 12 months, and what needs to be changed for next year.

In particular, it’s an opportunity to assess marketing and communications programs, and look at the successes and failures of the past year.

This kind of review reduces the risk of repeating mistakes from the past, and also helps ensure that new opportunities are fully taken advantage of. In addition, it’s a good way of looking at how activities and approaches can be improved.

The first step is to review the strategic plan developed for 2022, and assess the successes, failures, missed opportunities, and unexpected windfalls. This needs to be done honestly and openly and, where possible, evaluated to see what needs to change for 2023.

It may be the case that not much needs to change at all, or very little, but without a proper analysis, it’s impossible to know, and runs the risk of wasted energy, time and resources. It could also result in staff losing enthusiasm and the plan falling by the wayside.

If the plan hasn’t worked out as expected, the solution isn’t to shift the goalposts. It may be tempting to soften the targets – for example, if you haven’t met your target of sending out a client newsletter every month, the easy option is to decide to send it out every two months instead. But this won’t make the communications program more effective, so it is ultimately self-defeating.

Instead, some hard questions need to be asked, such as:

  • Did we do the things we said we would do? If not, why not? Did we just run out of time?  Was the person responsible for the activities given the resources they needed? What prevented us from achieving what we set out to achieve?
  • With the things we did do, were they done as well as they possibly could have been? Or was it rushed and compromised? For example, if there is a specific reason why activities are getting held up or delayed – perhaps one person who doesn’t respond in a timely fashion – this needs to be identified and dealt with
  • Were we consistent in our activities? For instance, a communication that clients know they will see in the first week of every month will soon gain traction and become part of the clients’ routine and expectation. However, if it is sent on an ad-hoc basis, so clients never know when to expect it and never become familiar with it, it will soon become a wasted effort and destined for the bin
  • Did we deliver the key messages we wanted to deliver? If not, why not? There may be a valid reason for messaging to shift and change, but this needs to be deliberate and considered
  • Did we create any new opportunities? Again, this may not be the case. But if there are new opportunities that can be turned into regular activities, or developed further in some way, this should be considered in the planning for 2023.

If the conclusion is that things could have been done differently or better, useful changes can be made to the way the program is implemented and the activities chosen.

For example, if one of the aims for 2022 was to build a client base for a new service offering, the evaluation should look at what activities were undertaken to promote the offering, what the key messages were, how regularly activities were undertaken, and whether the target clients were reached.

All communication programs – whether it is a new one being developed, or a long standing approach being continued – will suffer without proper aims, messages, target audience and agreed activities. The end of the year provides an ideal opportunity to take stock and refocus for the year ahead.