It has always been important for communications teams to show the impact of their activities, but as external economic factors bite into budgets, being able to measure and assess how communications is contributing to business outcomes is now absolutely critical.
At the same time, the digital revolution has come as a mixed blessing. Digital communication automatically generates data to help measure outcomes – if it’s analyzed and interpreted correctly. Take ‘engagement’ for example: retweets, likes, mentions, follows all help understand who is engaging online with what’s being communicated. In certain circumstances, journeys can be tracked from engagement (e.g. opening an email, clicking a link) to a more substantial outcome (signing-up to a campaign or making a purchase). But, at the same time, multi-channel digital campaigns make the question of attribution more difficult – i.e. what was it that actually made the difference.
Despite these challenges, there are some simple principles to follow when thinking about measurement that apply to whatever kind of communications you’re involved in.
- Define your intended outcomes first – Make sure all internal stakeholders understand the overarching aim of any communications from the outset, as well as the rationale for the strategy you’re building to achieve those outcomes. It sounds obvious, but you can quickly lose sight of intended outcomes as the creative development and heads-down delivery of a program gets underway.
- Link these outcomes to business strategy – No one wants to waste money on collecting unnecessary metrics and figures that don’t show how communications contribute to the ways in which the business is ultimately getting judged – such as on reputation, growth or other tangible results.
- Measure outcomes not just outputs – In other words, measure what your communications have changed, not just what you did: it’s important to show that you’ve been effective, as well as busy. A focus on delivery can mean we start to see volume as the single measure of success. How many events, tweets or emails were delivered is irrelevant if we don’t know whether those involved think or behave differently because of it.
- Qualitative insight, as well as quantitative –In addition to measuring what works, we also need to understand why – qualitative approaches and data provide us with that richness. For example, if Social Media Campaign A works better than Social Media Campaign B, we need to know why in order to build that in to the design of future campaigns: was it the content, visual format, frequency or simply the time they took place?
- Think about measurement throughout – Measurement isn’t something that only happens at the end, and if it does then it probably won’t work. You might be missing a trick in making your campaign more effective as you go along. Measurement should be considered and the above principles applied at the very earliest stages of devising any communications program. Equally, at the end of the program, the insights we generate from measuring impact should inform the design of future programs to ensure continuous improvement.
Now this check list is a starting point. Methodologies and data collection approaches will need to be designed to implement them, but without keeping these principles in mind no amount of clever analytics will provide you with a true assessment of your impact.
This month our Firm is celebrating Impact Month. Across the next few weeks, we’ll be working with all our teams to continue to embed these principles in all the work we do. And we’ll also be challenging our clients to think about measurement in this way so that they can demonstrate the impact of their own work on their organization.