There’s a lot to say about communications measurement and metrics. We’ve shared about industry benchmarks — how to use them strategically, the metrics that matter to leadership, and how to gain buy-in with data-backed communications.
Unfortunately, the metrics communicators use are not often the metrics executive leaders find valuable or informative. So, which metrics should you use to measure the success of your internal comms?
Step back: What are your objectives?
When confronted with many data points, revisiting your goals is an easy step to miss. Is your number one goal to educate, drive action, or make employees feel valued? This quarter, do you want to increase benefits enrollment participation, or is the current objective to improve employee retention?
Since outcomes matter the most, it’s important to focus on the steps that lead to the desired results. Suppose it’s Q4, and your objective is to increase benefits enrollment participation. Your Engagement rate is more critical than your open rate.
3 meaningful metrics
Although your comms programs serve various purposes, three metrics are valuable regardless of your specific objectives or channels: Reach, Readership, and Engagement. While these metrics are not KPIs themselves, you can use these metrics to derive KPIs. Let’s look at each metric in detail.
Reach is the percentage of your audience that has received — and paid attention to — your message. It’s a valuable metric because it indicates whether or not your message is reaching employees. With PoliteMail for Outlook, when an employee immediately deletes or briefly opens an email (and skips past your message), that interaction is not counted in overall Reach. For intranet pages, you might count page views, but to measure Reach, you need to subtract the ‘bounces’ (i.e., a visitor who immediately leaves the page).
Having an accurate count of your intended audience is essential. This number is the denominator of your Reach metric. The resulting metric is artificially lower when distribution groups include former employees or conference rooms. This is why PoliteMail provides tools and processes to keep corporate distribution lists accurate and up-to-date.
Other factors that impact Reach are the From address, the subject line, inbox timing, and preview content. Good KPIs for Reach? A decrease in ignores (or an increase in attention) over time (a month, quarter, or year).
Readership measures how much time recipients spend reading your message compared to how much content was delivered. PoliteMail categorizes this data into groups: Ignored, Skimmed, Read, Engaged Read, or Left Open. Readership level can be the average of all messages sent to a specific audience over time or isolated to particular campaigns (e.g., change management programs) or unique senders (e.g., executive leaders).
While Readership does not indicate comprehension, it shows whether your message is getting through to employees. It’s a helpful indicator of relevance, readability, and content value. You can change things up if employees skim (i.e., don’t read) most of your messages. Or on the contrary, if you have many engaged readers, you know most of your content is routinely read.
The primary factors that impact Readership are the preview pane content, layout and design, clarity of writing, use of engaging images, message length, and delivery time. To improve your Readership, keep your messages concise and relevant, ideally under two minutes or 500 works, and link or attach longer form content.
Engagement measures interactions with your communications.
- For email, if there is no link or action required, the percent read is the level of engagement.
- Readership and click-through create the engagement measure for messages with an intended action.
- And for posts, you can measure the number of likes and comments as a percentage of your audience.
Ideally, engagement measures the path towards the outcome. For example, for learning activities, you might compare completion percentage with participation percentage to gauge overall engagement.
Factors impacting engagement include frequency, relevancy, content length, reading ease, calls-to-action, and link effectiveness. To improve your email engagement, place links near the top of the message with a clear call to action, and use plain language without jargon.
The value of internal comms metrics
What’s measured gets managed. PoliteMail’s benchmark data reveals communications teams who have used PoliteMail’s email analytics for at least two years have steadily improved all key metrics, including attentive Reach, Readership, and Engagement. Having a consistent set of numbers that you and your executive leaders can understand helps improve your communications programs and prove the value of your work.