You’ve likely heard of communications measurement and metrics, most likely in terms of open rates, page views, and clicks. How do reach, readership and engagement metrics differ? How are these defined, what is the math, why does each metric matter, and how do you use these metrics to improve your internal comms strategy? Let’s dive right in.
What is Reach? Communications programs have a particular audience, which could be your entire staff or just a segment such as a department or geographic region. PoliteMail defines reach as the percentage of your audience receiving and opening your message and paying a minimum threshold of attention. Reach is not the distribution list size, the number of opens, or page views.
Even though an employee might receive your email in their inbox, if they immediately delete or skip the message, you did not reach them. The same goes for intranet page views. Since a bounce means a viewer immediately left the page, you subtract bounces from page views. In Teams, your reach is limited to only the active group members, not the total group size.
Reach matters because it is the initial indicator of influence. When trying to communicate, you must have someone’s attention. If you can’t reach them, you can’t share your message.
How do I improve reach? When your reach and attention rates are low, try the following:
- Clean up your distribution lists. Corporate distribution lists, commonly based on AD, often need to be updated and contain outdated addresses.
- Consolidate your channels. It’s usually worse to have too many channels than too few. Communicators often benefit from consolidating channels to what employees routinely use.
- Tighten targeting and segmentation. When audiences are large and diverse, general communications become more irrelevant, and recipients tend to ignore those messages. You will increase reach by tightening audiences and using a specific FROM address for each communications program instead of sending everything from comms@.
- Give people a reason to subscribe. When overloaded with communications, employees tend to limit their focus to just the necessities. Leverage this and create ways for employees to opt into messages (instead of force broadcasting).
What is Readership? Most communication is still delivered by text, although video has been gaining ground with the explosion of tools like as Teams and Zoom. You might think of readership and viewership similarly — it starts with the number of people consuming communications multiplied by the amount of time they invest. To calculate a metric, we compare that volume x time relative to the amount of content provided.
For example, PoliteMail’s email readership metric calculates ‘total time on the page’ divided by how long it would take someone to read that page. PoliteMail categorizes readers into groups and provides a set of metrics based upon time thresholds: Ignored, Skimmed, Read, Engaged Read, and Left Open. You can calculate video viewer metrics similarly. If it’s a 3-minute video, you can find a broad viewership metric by calculating the sum of unique viewers multiplied by their view time, then dividing that by your total audience multiplied by the total video length.
Readership matters because it is essential to getting your message across. Readership metrics can help you dial in your content and video length to deliver the most critical content.
How do I improve readership? When readership is lower than desired, try the following:
- Keep messages concise. From the 2023 PoliteMail Benchmark report, the optimal email message length is just one minute or 250 words. Videos are also best at a minute or less, though longer form can work, too.
- Assess the relevance of your messaging. When you write content for a specific target audience, readership increases.
- Simplify the language. By using shorter sentences and more straightforward language, you can increase readership.
- Use more visuals. Images, infographics, and images can make your communications more visually appealing, faster to read, and easier to digest.
What is Engagement? Think of engagement as the degree of involvement. Employees who consistently read most of your content are more engaged than those who just skim it. People who click on additional content are more engaged than those who do not. Likewise, when people’s opinions, attitudes, or behaviors change due to your communications program, you have engaged them. PoliteMail measures email engagement as a combination of readership and click behavior over time.
Engagement matters because it leads to outcomes. This is ultimately the purpose of your communications. The more engagement you have, and the more engaged your audience is, the more quickly and likely you will achieve your objectives.
How do I improve Engagement? When engagement is low, your messages are not resonating with your audience. Consider the following:
- Try changing your content strategy. Sometimes, a different writing style or angle can make all the difference. An informal focus group with a diverse audience mix can give you the insights to adjust your content production to better fit your audience.
- Try a different channel. If written communication isn’t working, try video. When digital communications are not working, employees likely want to hear directly from managers and leaders.
- Consider the alternative. When employee audiences refuse to engage with specific topics or programs, low engagement is a strong signal it may be time to rethink the objective or intent.
By using a consistent set of meaningful metrics across your various communications channels, you can more easily compare results and represent more meaningful metrics to leadership with more value than vanity metrics, such as email opens and intranet page views.