Measurement is one of the least-loved words in communications. Long misunderstood and often downright avoided, many communications professionals fail to recognize measurement as a demonstration of business impact.
One of the problems is that measurement is often seen in a defensive context – a report card rooted in media mentions, sentiment, and other dated metrics. Traditionally, communications measurement is focused on counting outputs, with few links to positive business change and real decision-making. Additionally, it tends to be regarded as a footnote to the campaign now ended, leaving little – if any – opportunity to improve strategy and content when it matters most.
But used properly, measurement can build strong campaigns around clear goals; improve accountability; build communications budgets; provide course correction when needed; guide efficient resourcing; and, most importantly, demonstrate opportunities to learn, optimize, and improve. Ultimately, measurement allows stakeholders to make better decisions in an increasingly fast-moving and challenging environment.
A strategic way to approach measurement is to develop an ongoing process that effectively ties communications work to real business outcomes. More specifically, the approach to measuring campaigns must take place across three stages of change:
- Changing communications: Measuring how you shape messages, create content, and communicate strategy.
- Changing conversations: Using measurement to demonstrate you influenced the conversation.
- Changing minds: Using measurement to show you influenced attitudes and behavior.
Overall, this approach allows you to measure how effective your approach to delivery is.
Now, how do you get started?
Measure your company, campaign, or message against key peers to understand the lay of the land, including audience behaviors and industry perspectives.
Measuring only your own performance leaves you in a vacuum. Get a holistic view of your impact by comparing your organization against a select group of key competitors, peers, and potentially aspirational organizations. This will help identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your reputational risks and opportunities. This will provide guidance to improve your communications approach going forward.
Start with a specific campaign or announcement
Don’t try to measure everything.
Attempting to measure every angle of an organization as a starting point can be frustrating, time consuming, and costly. Start with a distinct moment in time, such as a major announcement or launch. A pilot analysis allows you time to define key metrics, map data inputs, develop report frameworks, and secure buy-in from key stakeholders. Over time, as your measurement program is developed, refined, and socialized, it will be easier to scale up and expand.
Define communications success and what it looks like.
Once success is defined, it’s easy to work backwards and define the metrics that will guide your measurement strategy.
Avoid measuring for the sake of measuring. Map your measurement framework to tangible business goals through realistic and transparent metrics. This could be increasing reputational capital, improving customer satisfaction, influencing public policy, or gaining investor confidence.
Some examples of specific metrics include key message pick up, search engine rankings, frequency of positive or negative news, visitors to website, event attendance, and endorsements by journalists or influencers.
Prepare to track and use results.
Don’t make measurement reports unusable or so complex that they become out of date by the time they are delivered.
Real value comes from the right people being able to use the insights gathered from your measurement. Empower a select working group to be accountable for tracking performance and KPIs and, most importantly, to be responsible for using that insight to inform action.
Too often communications has been criticized for the use of lazy vanity metrics such as ad equivalencies and social media likes. By focusing on measuring real business and reputational outcomes tied to campaigns and industry positioning rather than outdated outputs, you’ll be able to communicate in the language of the boardroom – and let the numbers speak for themselves.
For more information on how we approach measurement and insights, visit Kekst CNC Intelligence.