Don’t try measurement – unless you want to prove your value to the organization
By Angela Sinickas, ABC, Diva of Diagnostics
That’s right. Don’t bother measuring communication success if:
1. Your boss already knows the value of communication.
You may be one of the fortunate few whose management team intuitively understands how important communication is to your organization’s success. In that case, you don’t need to do any measurement to get the budgets you want or the promotions you deserve.
Just hope that your management team never changes and your good boss doesn’t get replaced with a bad one who thinks communication is just an overhead cost that needs to be trimmed.
2. You don’t want a better job.
I first began measuring communication seven years into my career when I was editor of the Little Trib, the Chicago Tribune Company’s monthly employee magazine.
Within months of conducting a communication audit that led to major changes in communication that better supported the company’s business goals, I was named to the newly created position of internal communication manager. Within a year my staff was increased from one part-time intern to three full-time professionals – during the recession of the early 1980s.
So, if you really enjoy those brainstorming sessions with the graphic designers and would hate to give them up for strategy meetings with executives, stay away from measurement.
3. You don’t have time.
If you conduct interviews or focus groups with your target audience before developing a communication plan or pretest a near-final draft of your communication, you may have to build an extra day or two into your schedule.
Of course, results of the pre-planning research can also completely change your expected approach into one that is simpler and takes far less of your time.
Research showed my management team that a financial literacy campaign they wanted me to create wasn’t likely to get them the productivity improvements they wanted from employees. But a simple five-minute discussion in staff meetings that never even mentioned money did.
Pretesting an email announcing a major benefit change for one of my manufacturing clients led to several dozen last-minute edits that avoided major misunderstandings. Not only did the communicators save the time it would have taken to send out explanatory follow-up communications correcting the misperceptions, but the HR department received fewer than five phone calls the next day about the change when they were expecting more than 500 calls based on previous announcements of benefit changes.
4. You don’t have money.
Focus groups and a survey cost one client $60,000. But just one of the recommendations suggested by the research saved the company $100,000 a year while making their audiovisual communications more targeted and effective.
A $50,000 survey for a pharmaceutical company helped the communicators calculate that just one communication campaign they worked on in the previous year had led to a nearly 2,000% return on investment, based on the division’s entire communication cost for the year. One outcome was that senior management tripled the division’s communication budget for the next year.
Corby Casler, a speaker I heard at a conference, related that whenever she conducted measurements showing the impact of her communications on operational results, her management wanted more communication and more measurement. By the time she left for a bigger job at another company, her measurement budget alone was larger than her entire communication budget had been just a few years earlier.
5. You’re afraid of getting hooked.
Sure, you might measure the first time because of peer pressure. Everyone else is measuring, so you want to get in on the action too.
At first, you mean to remain a recreational measurer. Next thing you know, though, you’re getting high on the management attention your research generates.
Before you realize it, you’re hooked. You can’t write a single paragraph without your research crutch.
The final stage is when you spend all your time measuring and strategizing, and your organization has to hire staff so you can implement all the measurable, bottom-line-impacting plans you develop.
Wouldn’t it be better to just say no and never start in the first place?
Angela Sinickas, ABC, is president of Sinickas Communications Inc., an international communication consultancy specializing in helping corporations achieve business results through targeted diagnostics and practical solutions.