Does measurement improve communications effectiveness and business results?

“What gets measured gets managed” is an adage most often attributed to the late business management guru Peter Drucker, as is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.” Drucker’s advice is still valued today for it’s essential truth, and data from the 2018 Politemail Email Metrics Benchmark Report provides more supporting evidence.

The report is an analysis of over 200 million internal email communications sent by users of PoliteMail’s internal communications platform for Outlook.

Those who have used the program for at least two years have increased email engagement by over 21% and email effectiveness by over 28%.  Measurement leads to informed decision making, which has led to changes which better persuade employees to read, click and otherwise engage with corporate email communications programs.

How do you know if you are measuring what matters?

That’s a tough question for everyone, including researchers. Here’s how Juan Meng of the University of Dayton and Bruce K. Berger of the University of Alabama put it in a study sponsored by the International Association of Business Communicators:

Though studies have suggested that communication effectiveness is one of the leading indicators of an organization’s business performance, how and to what extent communicators measure the relationship between communication and performance is unclear. We also know relatively little about the specific approaches or metrics that communicators use to demonstrate the ROI for their organization’s internal communication initiatives. Thus, the anticipated influence on organizational senior leaders’ support, contribution and participation in communication efforts remains unpredictable.

Meng and Berger explain that senior leader’s participation in in communications programs, and communications ability to influence leadership, is highly dependent on measurement, and specifically measurement of communications effects on business results.

Alison Davis, founder and CEO of Davis and Company, offers a reminder in a post on Medium: If your organization isn’t measuring internal communication at all, it should be, even if it’s not perfect.

“Paralyzed by fear or perfectionism, many communicators measure seldom or — worse — never,” Davis warns. “A short, incomplete survey is so much better than no measurement at all.”

While some measurement is better than none, what you measure will determine if your communications team will gain leadership influence.

Communications activity is more easily, and more often, measured instead of outcomes.  A count of articles posted, number of email opens or intranet page views are measures of activities, and while those may in fact lead or connect to outcomes, when the measurements stop there, it will prove difficult for executive leadership to buy in.

In an article on CIPR Inside, Kevin Ruck of PR Academy offers the A.V.I.D. framework to help internal communications teams map their efforts to organizational objectives.

In a blog post, digital agency JPL adds this:

The true power of a communication program lies in its ability to motivate and inspire employees in ways that help the company achieve its strategic business goals. The most successful internal communication programs use performance metrics that reflect their impact on company priorities.

Meng and Berger quantified this, finding that what companies focus on measuring will influence their results. Low-effectiveness companies prioritized metrics on budget, staffing levels or personal interest. Companies with highly effective communication measured employee behavior changes, and internal measurement had been “validated as a standard operating practice.”

Measuring these five aspects of internal communications indicated a high-performance organization:

  1. Increased awareness or understanding
  2. Concentrated engagement among employees
  3. Improved job performance
  4. Employee behavior changes
  5. Improved organizational business performance

The PoliteMail Benchmark Report data reinforces this concept.  In the comparison of 2-year performance, open rates, a measure of activity, improved by just 4%, while attention rate and click rate, measures of behavior, were improved by over 16% 42% respectively.

By initiating an internal measurement program, corporate communications teams can win over even the most skeptical, but results driven, business leaders by using data to demonstrate improvements in communications effectiveness and business outcomes.

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