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Internal Communications Strategy – How to measure effectiveness

Katie MarlowKatie Marlow·

(Measurement and research to gain insights are crucial elements of any internal communications strategy. This blog has been commissioned from internal communications expert Katie Marlow to coincide with the publication of our new whitepaper, The Ultimate Guide to Internal Communications Strategy, and related webinar – the Poppulo Team).

 

Measurement. One simple word. Yet it so often causes us headaches and challenges in our daily work as internal communicators.

But it really doesn’t need to be this way. Measuring how our work is making a difference to business should be part and parcel of our activity, not a time-consuming activity managed as a separate entity.

What’s more, it gives us credibility in the boardroom, the power to our counsel and helps us to protect and gain budget to do our work well. But above all, for me, it demonstrates the difference our work makes and that’s why I love working in internal communication, the ability to make a difference. What better feeling than knowing that the hard work you put into your creative campaigns and activities has actually changed minds, shifted behavior or helped the business and the people who work in it. Guessing how well we did just doesn’t cut it in modern business. And as professional communicators, we should not be satisfied with a ‘feeling’ that our efforts have made a difference.

 

So what’s making it such a challenge and how can we stop it being so?

There can be many factors that hinder our ability to measure our work and the success it has. Not everything is in our control, but how we manage the challenge is absolutely in our gift. And sometimes even with restricted budgets, time and resources we can find creative solutions.

Us and our ways of working

Sometimes it’s just our own habits that we need to change. When we’re so busy delivering it can be hard to make the time to factor in ‘measurement’. Especially when there are dozens of more tasks on the to-do list, an overflowing inbox and your skills and quick context-based decision making are in demand across the business. So first we should take a check our own mindsets.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What’s stopping me and the IC team from measuring outcomes?
  2. Are we working reactively or proactively?
  3. Are we rushing from one demand from the business to the next?
  4. Should we try to take a step back and be more strategic?
  5. How can we do that and manage business expectations?
  6. Do we have the skills, knowledge, and tools to measure our results?

When you know the answers to these questions, you can start tackling different aspects. And like everything in life, it’s easier to start with a few quick wins to build momentum, so prioritize your actions and make a plan that’s achievable.

The business and its systems

Every business is different and has a different mix of technical systems in its armory. Some of those may be useful to help us measure our work.

Most large companies have insights teams, analysts or technical advisors who report on a whole range of information to the senior teams on a regular basis.

Consider questions like these for your business:

  1. What measures is the business using already?
  2. How can we utilize these against our communication activity?
  3. What are the basics we can measure through our communication?
  4. What are technical tools available to us to help us measure?
  5. Who in the business can help us with the tech, the skills or the knowledge to harness the data we need?

When you know what’s out there, that you can access and use, find ways to make it work for your team. Creating a dashboard that’s easy to follow is a simple step and can evolve over time as you find better ways of working. Nurturing your network in the business is a key skill of every communicator, so putting that to work to get the tech and skills support you need should be possible.

Outputs and outcomes

Different, but they are both helpful. Showing us what we did and how we made people feel or behave. We know that outcomes are the holy grail when it comes to tangible measures and real benefits of communication activity. We all want to know the difference our comms has made. While it’s nice to know that perhaps 500 plus people read the item on the corporate strategy, we really want to see people understand how their role affects and drives the strategy and to see them adopt the internal communication strategy in their work.

And yet outputs have an important role to play. They help us understand who is reading our content and to slice and dice how our content reaches across different segments of the employee population. They set the scene for outcomes, and content is easily tracked with tagging and clear content planning and channel management. They allow us to understand which of our content pieces are opened, read, popular and shared, or indeed what other employees may be saying about any specific topic too. This means we can take lessons from outputs and use those successful content formulas in our future content. With the right mix of style, pitch for our employee population, message, and channel being made clear with the data we can save ourselves time wasted on vanity projects and comms that no-ones listening to.

Adding outcomes to the mix of outputs can provide amazing insights and understanding of where our work has made a real difference. This can often be a place where many communicators can find it hard to get the support and budget they need to demonstrate the value of the work they do.

A way around this challenge can be to make a start, to take the lead. Use whatever you can to show your leadership the difference their communication is making. Showing your outputs and the business outcomes in a dashboard format that works for your organization can be very powerful. Then bit by bit, with the clear stats presented, desire will grow to find out more and budgets may become more readily available.

  1. Use existing business stats and track your communication activity alongside it to show where it is making an impact.
  2. Add a call to action or other interactive measures to your content that you can track.
  3. Create short, sharp pulse surveys that circulate the employee community to gauge and track a core principle of your business strategy for example. Surveys do not need to be a dirty word, long-winded or impossible to administer and act upon. A couple of perfectly drafted questions asked of different groups of employees at different times can provide really useful and immediate measures to feedback into campaigns and the business.
  4. Hold forums or interviews to gauge sentiment and views on key topics. These can take a range of formats or frequencies to suit the business and communication needs.
  5. Get communication focussed questions added to the employee engagement surveys or similar employee-wide surveys to give you a bigger picture view of the success of the internal communication
    you deliver.

Never fear measurement and your team’s ability to start doing it again. Make a start and show how you make a difference. Bit by bit it can become part of your day and every campaign. There’s no doubt that measurement can help communication take a more strategic role and be less reactive as a function. As communicators, we have a duty to show our leaders how well their communication is doing and we have to focus our work on where we make the most impact. As communicators, we can make the complex simple, and we should take this approach with our measurement as much as we do with our messaging.

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