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Internal communicators know measuring their efforts is a vital component of a disciplined communications team, and while measuring can be a challenge in itself, the next step toward extracting accurate conclusions and actionable insights from measurement data is still a mystery to many.

According to research conducted by W20, most measurement efforts “pull basic engagement data about channels and viewership but isn’t as actionable for communications improvement, yet.” In other words, it’s hard to make communications decisions from basic open and page view data. Companies are “eager to identify and master behavioral engagement metrics, but there isn’t a clear path to get there.”

How can you get there? “There” being the place where you understand how your communications programs are influencing employee behaviors. While there is no magic formula, here are a few things you can do to place data into context and analyze results with an eye towards making more effective action plans.

Answer key questions.

As Marie Wallace, an analytics strategist at IBM put it, “The only people who like analytics are analytics people like me! The rest of the organization wants their questions answered.”

In other words, your data alone doesn’t solve anything. You need to have the important questions in mind, whether from business leaders or your own comms teams, prior to collecting data, and then use those questions to frame your results. Your data and analysis should seek to answer those questions.

To do that, you should talk to executives and other leaders about their objectives, both for the business and how they expect communications to contribute. When you’re on the same page from the start, the whole process will be easier.

Focus on outcomes.

Leaders want to see measurable results and meaningful metrics.

“Leadership only cares whether the communication produced a behavioral change that led to greater productivity, increased sales, better recruitment, improved retention, or some other relevant data point,” writes Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology. “They want to know how internal communication is helping them meet their goals, help them sleep better at night.”

When you are able to show how communications efforts led to improved behaviors and outcomes with the numbers to back it up, you’ll be speaking their language.

Combine data sources.

Quantitative measurements will identify what an employee did or didn’t to, but not why.  Considering combining your quantitative measures with qualitative research such as simple surveys, polls and and focus group interviews, which will help explain why those trends are happening and provide more context to your analysis.

As Rob Dumbleton writes on LinkedIn: “Internal analytics reflect the ‘votes’ employees cast, not only with their feet, but with their interests and attention.”

Move from insight to action.

Once you have analyzed your data and answered your initial questions, the question “What should we do about it?” will remain. When presenting your results, be prepared to offer some answers.

“…find insights from the data and analytics tools, align with your manager or other stakeholders on those insights, and be prepared to recommend actions plans so you can execute on your opportunities,” writes Charong Chow at Social Chorus.

“What should we do?” will be a question communicators will always be asked when it comes to executing communications programs, and often the best approach is to reply by asking “Why should we do it?”.  When those objectives are clearly spelled out, communicators can provide better answers and collect the data necessary to be most effective.