You’re measuring IC wrong
Digital platforms have arrived to tell us … nothing at all about how effective our IC content is.
It’s that thing which haunts any practitioner of Internal Communications – how the f**k do we measure this thing?
Demonstrating the value of the work that you do as an internal communicator has long been something perceived as impossible/pointless/expensive (delete where appropriate) and constantly causes issues for teams who are trying to get budget approval from more commercially focused senior managers.
Easy-to-implement, off-the-shelf solutions such as Yammer and Workplace offer a potential magic bullet to solve these issues. Tired by long timelines and the perceived lack of interaction created by a regular staff magazine every three months, businesses are moving to platforms that not only offer the opportunity to communicate – cheaply, effectively and immediately – with employees all over the world, but also give them a much better idea of how their content is being received by their employees.
And while this can only be a good thing on the surface, we need to be careful about how we interpret the data these platforms give us and, more importantly, what it really tells us about the effect of the content that’s being pushed out there.
Because that’s the thing that people get most excited about – all those juicy metrics!
Comms professionals get very excited about stuff like this …
‘Look everyone! 80% of our people have downloaded the app!’ (and then deleted it two days later).
‘We’ve had over 2,000 users post on the app’ (their one and only appearance on your platform).
‘We’ve had 3,000 views on the video the CEO did about his love of German Death Metal’ (was this in your communications strategy??).
But do you know what those metrics are telling you?
Measurement is not the same as Return on Investment (ROI), and ROI is truly where we need to get to if we want continued investment and belief in IC as a serious discipline.
In advertising and marketing you can tie metrics to effectiveness: we did this campaign, got a load of good metrics and sold a load more stuff (OK, it’s not that simple, but you get the point).
In IC it’s more like – we got great metrics, but so what?
Did our employee productivity improve?
Did we sell more products as a result of our people being engaged by this piece of content?
The reason it tells us nothing is because the success criteria that’s been put in place for the content or campaign is around dumb metrics rather than actual outcomes. Having lots of views of something or lots of people posting and taking part is taken as a sign of success, when really it is just the start of the process.
So no matter what channels you are using – offline or online – it is the outcomes that are important. These must be linked to ROI. That’s the only way the IC industry will evolve.
We need to get to a point where we can say that if we do X then it will have this effect on our people which will lead to Y outcome for our business. That outcome could be increased productivity (because people better understand their role and/or are working harder) or better staff retention – all of which can lead to more profit, which is ultimately what every business is interested in.
We know that IC already has a positive effect on these things, but we can’t prove it, and if we can’t create these tangible links in the work we are doing, then you might as well not do it at all.
We need to look at our communications plans/strategies/schedules and look at what we are really trying to achieve – how will things have changed once your work is complete? What positive result is on the horizon? Even if you fail to achieve your objective, it has to be there.
Pro tip: your objectives can’t be ‘engagement’, ‘awareness’ or mention things like ‘cascading knowledge’ – these are contributing steps on the way to your objective.
So let’s not be dazzled by the promise of new shiny things, and let’s focus on true outcomes that tangibly improve our businesses for the better.
Because when it comes to IC, the best place to begin is always the end.