Every internal communication professional has heard it before: what gets measured gets done. It’s something Jo Hall explores with refreshing practicality in her “Essential IC Measurement Workbook” for Poppulo.
Measurement is important to business leaders because they want to hear informed opinions—opinions informed by hard data, and not based merely on guesswork.
The issue for internal communicators is that to analyze the effectiveness of their activities and campaigns—and to show their value to their organizations—the hard data they need requires measurement of their communications’ performance.
So why is measurement such a bugbear in IC when it’s so critical to the personal success of the internal communicator and the organization s/he works for? When effectiveness cannot be determined if impact isn’t measured? When this dictates the value attached to the IC function and influences budgets allocated to it?
A Poppulo Global Survey two years ago revealed that while 95 percent of the 700 participants considered measuring the impact of their communications as “extremely important/important,” 50 percent admitted it was the activity they spent the least amount of time on each week. And two out of three said they found communications difficult to measure.
Regrettably, it’s not getting any better. The authors of the Gatehouse “State of the Sector” report this year said they were “surprised to see that internal communicators still aren’t prioritizing impact measurements.”
“The use of many measurement methods listed in the survey has decreased over the past year and 12 percent of respondents say they don’t measure their communication activities in any way,” they said.
We shouldn’t be surprised, then, to hear that around a third of respondents don’t believe that leaders understand the value of internal communication. Is it a stretch to think this lack of understanding is contributing to the fact that the 2018 Gatehouse survey has 40 percent of respondents saying they expect their budgets to stay static over the next 12–18 months and 20 percent expect them to be cut?
Why is measurement such an intractable problem for IC professionals?
There are three main reasons:
- Ineffective or inadequate tools. While quick and easy measurement of communication outputs and outcomes is possible through sophisticated modern software like Poppulo, the State of the Sector revealed that over 50 percent of respondents said the main barrier to successful internal communication was “internal technology not fit for purpose/legacy systems.”
- Pressure on time/lack of resources.
- Not knowing what or how to measure.
“Knowing where to start, and how to begin measuring your communication efforts is tough,” Jo Hall writes in “The Essential IC Measurement Workbook.” “It’s daunting. It’s confusing. And many of us put it off or don’t do it well.
“Measurement drives focus, attitude changes, competition, accountability, credibility and influence. All of which can be positive and beneficial for internal communicators and businesses alike—but only if the right things are measured in the right way,” she said.
Business adviser, author and leadership coach Jim Shaffer stresses the importance of measuring what matters.
“Many traditional internal communicators measure things that aren’t relevant to the business. Tweets, retweets, page views, readability and channel usage, to name a few.
“Instead measure how well you’re managing communication to improve revenues, quality, service delivery, gross margin, operating income and pro and productivity. This is what your leadership wants from you. Shift from a cost center mentality to a value creation mindset,” he said.
Jo Hall believes the dread many internal communicators associate with measurement stems from not knowing what to measure or how to measure—which spurred her to create a guide packed with “helpful advice, tips and templates to take the first, confident step towards measuring your communications effectively and demonstrating the value of your IC team adds to the business.”
So, where do you start?
Begin with defining what outcome you and the business want or need. “It’s imperative that before you start sketching out any communication plan, you know what you’re aiming to achieve,” Jo Hall stresses. “Capitalize on the very sound advice from Stephen Covey and always begin with the end in mind.”
5 top tips to help you define outcomes
- Read your organizational strategy and corporate goals. What do they tell you about the intended future direction of the business? What business outcomes are defined?
- Talk to leaders and ask them how they expect the organization to look, feel or behave if the communications are a success. What impact are they expecting?
- Review your communication strategy. Where are you intending to head, as a function? What outcomes did you define?
- Brainstorm with your campaign or project team to define what behavior, knowledge or attitude you’re aiming to change.
- Take a quiet moment to yourself to consider the purpose of your communication. What do you want your employees to know, feel or do?
Having defined your outcomes, you can then think about the communication tactics you will need to deploy to realize those outcomes. Always measure the change you want to achieve, not just the activities and outputs you deliver.
In the measurement workbook, Jo Hall says it’s important to know your audience and what you want from each of them, and she outlines a six-step approach to focus efforts. Similarly, she presents key questions to ask to improve measurement, key tips to interrogate and understand data and how to visualize it for others,10 top tips for sharing your data, and how to present it to leaders with impact.
“Measurement is an art. It takes practice to get it right,” she said. “Once you start gathering and sharing data, you might not only become a little addicted to demonstrating the value of your communications, but you will make intelligent data-driven decisions—and will also offer your leaders much more effective and credible strategic counsel to go with it.”