How to Become The Data-Driven Internal Communicator You Need to Be
— December 8th, 2021
Data is not just the realm of accountants and scientists. Over the last couple of years, we have all been inundated by data – case numbers, vaccination rates, days in lockdown, etc.
Not only that, our lives are increasingly being run by smartphones, wearable technology, and even personalized data jewelry! As a result, we are all becoming more data literate.
If you are a professional communicator and you are not using data to its full effect then you are missing a big opportunity to get a seat at the strategic table.
As communicators, we should all be prioritizing the use of data to measure the impact of our efforts and as an evidence base to inform our plans.
The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Internal Commuinictions
Communication is not about sending messages
Contrary to what some of our stakeholders may believe, communication is not about sending messages – it’s about the behavior that is inspired as a result of the message. How often do we hear phrases like, “Are the comms out?” or “We need some comms on that”?
Our job is not done once the email is sent, the video is posted or the intranet page goes live. How do you know whether your message has landed and the objectives have been achieved? The answer is data. So how do you get it?
First, define the question you are trying to answer
The first step is to define what you really want to know and why. Best practice measurement should always be based on clear, SMART objectives. You can measure everything from awareness, understanding, knowledge, and skills through to attitude, trust, satisfaction, innovation, productivity, sales, or specific behavioral response.
For example, in a lot of employee communication strategies you might see something like, “By the end of the year, more than 80% of our employees will understand our organization’s purpose.” This is an excellent objective, but did you know you can even take it a step further by asking a simple important question: So what?
What is the point of your employees understanding your organization’s purpose? Is that the end in itself, or is it so that their work is more focussed on the priorities of the organization? If so, how would you measure that?
Perhaps through the number of recognition awards received that align to the purpose, or an increase in customer satisfaction specific to that quality? Asking “So what?” helps you define a measure that’s aligned to business objectives, not just communication tactics.
Finding the Data
Once you’ve defined what you want to measure, you’re ready to find the data. So where to look? Truly, data is everywhere! Ideally, you need a combination of qualitative and quantitative, formal and informal inputs. The better your data quality the better your insights will be — remember “garbage in, garbage out!”
Thankfully, digital engagement means lots of data. There are some great tools available to really drill down and understand whether you are using the right communication channel for the right message and audience.
Some prefer email as a primary means of communication and others prefer collaboration tools, chatbots or to have content consolidated into a newsletter. Ideally, you want an omnichannel strategy that considers the audience’s overall experience.
These days it’s possible to get very detailed demographic data like location and audience, as well as hits, views, click-throughs, reach, shares, comments, likes, engagement, and even time of day preferences.
This data helps target your channels to maximize their impact.
What about non-wired employees? Lots of field-based, remote, or shift workers don’t have ready access to a computer. But never fear, there are still lots of ways to get data about their preferences. For example, you could run a focus group, do a quick offline poll, have a morning tea, do some ethnographic research or conduct a more formal communication audit.
Be as creative as you like. Just remember, to inform decisions your data set needs to be large enough so that it’s a representative sample of your audience.
Whatever you do, don’t stop there
Remember the “So what?” question? Just because you have a good understanding of the way your channels are performing, it doesn’t mean you understand the business impact yet.
Your challenge now is to find data that links the performance of your communication tactics to the strategic business objectives you defined in your plan. This is the step that will truly set you apart as a strategic operator.
Let’s take another example. Say your objective is to increase the readership of your newsletter by 50% next month. Now ask, ‘So what?’ It might ultimately be to help call center staff understand new features of a product and therefore increase its sales. Now you know you are looking for data that tells you if your newsletter contributed to sales.
So that objective might look like “To increase our call center staff’s understanding of the new widget by 80%, and contribute to a 20% increase in sales for November. You could even put a dollar figure on your impact.
Some examples of where to find this type of data are monthly sales reports, call volumes, lead generation click through rates, average call handling time, technical inquiries, complaints, Net Promoter Score (NPS), advocacy, employee engagement surveys, absenteeism rates, turnover – just to name a few! Annual reports can also be a wealth of information.
Measure what matters to the business and you’ll become invaluable for your strategic insight.
Of course, sometimes it’s hard to isolate what contribution your tactic has made if there are other activities occurring at the same time and there’s not a direct, measurable link. You may need to make some assumptions and claim an appropriate proportion. (And don’t sell yourself short).
A good tip is to remember that if you are measuring a behavior change (e.g. an increase in knowledge, confidence, sales, etc.), you will need to measure both before and after a tactic has been implemented - so you can see the difference your effort has made.
Presenting the data
As communicators, we know how information is presented is crucial to ensuring the message is understood. It’s very difficult to look at a spreadsheet and see what is happening.
Most data analysts will use charts and analysis tools like Power BI. Data cleansing, analysis, synthesizing, and visualization are skills that are highly valuable for communicators to learn, and will only become increasingly so in demand.
You may be wondering if it’s possible to have unbiased data? There are elements of bias in data sets depending on how it’s captured. Bias can be hard to be aware of.
You may want to seek the advice of an analyst or someone experienced in surveys to assist you with design and analysis. As communicators, it is our ethical responsibility to remove bias and present the full picture.
Remember to share your results!
Now that you have your data and done the analysis, you’ll have a good idea about what’s working and what isn’t. Share these findings with your team and stakeholders and keep adjusting your strategy.
The insights will improve our businesses and our lives.