How Chicago Public Media measures community engagement

Chicago Public Media (WBEZ) is no stranger to community engagement. (See here, here and here.) For years, connecting with their community has been a vital part of their production process.

Now, the station is taking it to the next level: Assigning metrics to their engagement work so they can better evaluate their impact. Breeze Richardson, Chicago Public Media’s director of strategic partnerships, recently penned a case study on this topic, and we’re excited to share here a snapshot of some of the metrics they chose and why.

Metric: Community partnerships
In September, Chicago Public Media had more than 70 community partners and were working on nearly 40 collaborations. So, it makes sense that one of their metrics looked at what these partnerships resulted in – from content to resources. (See the results.)

“Our long-term commitment to collaborate with cultural institutions increases community engagement opportunities throughout our region and provides content for radio, digital, and event platforms,” writes Richardson in the case study for the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Metric: Tracking Web interaction
In the age of digital media, organizations everywhere are looking to crack the nut of measuring Web engagement. Chicago Public Media decided to track the numbers of story page views relative to the number of comments as a measure of engagement. While Richardson points out that they’re not yet sure whether their numbers are good (their ratio was 400:1 in September), it’s opening a valuable conversation and encourages improvement.

Metric: Community events
Chicago Public Media hosts a regular off-air event series that has attracted more than 20,000 people. As one of their metrics, they looked at how well these events were attended.

“Bringing together audience[s] to see each other and dynamically contribute to the ideas and conversations sparked by Chicago Public Media programs and initiatives is a valuable piece of community engagement work,” says Richardson.

What’s next?
Chicago Public Media’s metrics are a starting point for discussion around measuring impact. NCME is tracking other approaches for measuring the value and impact of station work in the community. At NCME, we believe understanding the value of stations’ work in the community is a critical step. And because of this, we’re looking forward to sharing more on impact measurement this year and following the efforts of Chicago Public Media as they continue this important work.

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