As communications professionals we all know the importance of measurement – be it click-throughs, open rates, direct mail responses and the like. But a recent study carried out by Regan/PoliteMail showed that in the field of internal communications many practitioners struggle to measure their activities satisfactorily.
In this article we look at why quantifying internal comms is so important and show how IC teams should go about doing it.
The Importance of Measurement
Measuring the effectiveness of internal communications should be a central part of any comms strategy. Not only does it help you assess and demonstrate the worth of your campaigns and activities, but it also enables you to determine which methods, tactics and tools are working – and which aren’t.
The latter, of course, will assist you in making your communications more effective. But showing the value and benefits that your activities – and your team – bring to the business can be vital in securing and justifying budget, resources and organisational kudos.
Barriers and Constraints
Data, statistics and analytics can be a complex and, for some, mystifying discipline. But according to the Ragan/PoliteMail survey, the measurement challenges facing internal communicators go way beyond needing to have a head for figures.
For the comms professionals who took part in the survey the key issues are a lack of funding, dissatisfaction with the measurement tools available and general time constraints.
In addition, more pressing business priorities, a failure to capture sufficiently meaningful information and a limited understanding of how to actually do it also all conspire against the respondents’ ability to measure communications properly.
Developing a Comms Measurement Strategy
You too may feel constrained by a lack of time, tools or budget, but taking a more formal, structured approach to planning your comms will give you more control and focus and help produce better results.
A communications measurement strategy typically consists of several distinct phases:
1. Discovery – a review and audit of existing communication activities, methods and channels.
2. Definition – identifying your communication objectives and your approach to measuring them.
3. Measurement – collecting the results.
4. Evaluation – analysing the data and adapting your activities as necessary.
Let’s look at each of these phases in more detail.
Undertaking a communications audit to provide a “baseline” is good practice for any comms professional. Not only will this give you a solid foundation for your overall communication strategy but will provide the necessary background information for measuring specific campaigns.
Whole articles are dedicated to discussing the subject of communications audits, but the bottom line is you should look to gain a complete understanding of existing communication methods, messages and channels, along with audiences, locations, business strategy, organisational structure, corporate culture and values, stakeholders, resources, budgets and timeframes.
You should also seek to establish the organisation’s future plans and recognise where any significant changes are anticipated.
Before running a particular campaign – and in order to successfully measure it – you next need to determine your objectives and plan your approach to measurement.
a) Communication objectives
As always, objectives should be clear, meaningful and, of course, measurable. Besides identifying the target audience and timeframe, this is where you state the desired outcomes of your communication activity.
Not to be confused with “outputs” (such as the number of emails opened or hyperlinks clicked), outcomes might consist of a greater awareness of a particular subject, a change in employee attitudes or an increase in take-up or participation. For example, your comms campaign might be related to environmental issues in the workplace and you identify a 50% reduction in general waste as being a desired outcome, alongside a 50% increase in recycling and a 5% reduction in the annual electricity bill.
Each of these is a measurable objective. And the more precise your objectives, the easier your communications will be to quantify and measure – and the easier it will be to demonstrate their value to the management. In addition, tying communication objectives to the organisation’s overall business strategy will make your activities and data more relevant and meaningful to senior executives.
b) Measurement methods
There are several different approaches to measuring the effectiveness of communication. What you choose for your campaigns comes down to budget, resources, time and the amount of detail you seek.
• Usage statistics – these will show outputs only, such as delivered messages, open rates and number of hits.
• Intranet “quick polls” and “pulse” surveys – consisting of one or two questions, these can be a good way of gaining instant feedback or revealing new issues requiring attention.
• Phone surveys – these can be more informal/relaxed and, again, are a useful way of getting instant feedback from employees and an opportunity to gain additional insights into what is and isn’t working.
• Online surveys – larger surveys made up of a mixture of yes/no, matrix and multiple choice questions, plus perhaps one or two open-ended questions for some additional qualitative feedback.
• Focus groups – small group meetings or workshops for gathering qualitative rather than quantitative responses and for digging deeper into employees’ perceptions and opinions.
c) When to measure
Before - whilst your initial audit will have provided an array of background information, in advance of a specific communications campaign you should look to measure current awareness levels and prevailing attitudes in relation to the subject matter.
During - influencing and changing opinions can take time to reveal itself; therefore it is important to measure effectiveness throughout a campaign (+ immediately afterwards and then again at regular intervals).
After - surveying employees straight after a communication gives you instant insight into its effectiveness and will help you tailor future comms to make them more effective. Further periodic surveys enable you to understand whether employee opinions and attitudes are changing as anticipated and can also act as an “early warning system” for any other issues.
Finally, an annual employee satisfaction survey provides the opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of opinions and levels of engagement within the organisation, as well as gauging the success of your overall communications strategy.
The Measurement Phase
Once you know how and what you are measuring, you can send out your communication or begin your campaign.
Regardless of which method you use to measure, your ultimate aim is to show how your messages affect employee awareness and behaviour and support the wider business goals.
In terms of quantifying awareness, you need to establish to what extent your comms reached the intended audience. Was the right message sent to the right people at the right time and did the chosen channels succeed in reaching the targeted employees? Furthermore, was the message relevant and credible to the target audience and did they recall and understand the message and its implications?
Next, how successfully has your campaign changed attitudes? As a result of receiving your communication, did employees take specific action or change their behaviour or opinions in a particular, identifiable and sustained way?
And what impact have your communications had on the strategic objectives? Demonstrate how IC activities support the organisation by showing how your messages have resulted in changes that relate to specific business goals (for example that, following your campaign, recycling has increased by 50% and energy bills have fallen by 5%).
The final phase of the communications measurement strategy is where you analyse your findings to determine both the level of success and the areas that need to be adapted, improved or even completely over-hauled.
The precision and quality of your original audit and campaign objectives is crucial to being able to properly evaluate the effectiveness of your communications – particularly if you wish to demonstrate ROI by linking comms to specific business or financial goals.
However, once the measurement of communications has been undertaken and the results analysed, act swiftly on your findings – make the appropriate changes to your comms strategy, propose business improvements to the management and address any employee concerns that have been rasied.
And, equally, ensure you share your conclusions throughout the organisation, highlighting success stories and showing employees what has been learned and how this is shaping the future of the business.
Measuring internal comms activity is a central pillar of any communication strategy and doing so provides you with a much clearer picture of the effectiveness of your campaigns – and, importantly, how you need to improve them.
Furthermore, if you align your approach and objectives to the goals of the organisation – and then demonstrate how your internal communications are adding value and enhancing performance – the Board will come to see you less as just a corporate messenger and more as a strategic business partner who is helping drive the organisation forwards.