The Value of Industry Benchmarks — and How to Use Them Strategically

The value of industry benchmarks — and how to use them strategicallyAre your internal communications effective? Is your attention rate high enough?

As a corporate communicator, your role is to have employees read the messages you send. To achieve this, you need to use the most effective communication strategies. Fortunately, benchmarking can help you identify those.

Benchmarking — the process of comparing your organization’s data to standardized data in the same industry or organization size — can help reveal best practices and identify areas of improvement.

The primary goal of benchmarking is to identify performance gaps and improvement efforts by compiling vast amounts of data and points of reference. For example, PoliteMail’s annual Benchmark Report analyzes aggregated, anonymized data from over two billion internal emails sent to nearly 12 million employees from more than 300 participating companies. We seek to understand the analytics behind messages employees actually read and engage with, and most importantly, we aim to understand what makes a good message.

3 strategic ways to leverage industry benchmark data

Equipped with benchmark data, internal communications teams can review their channels and content approach and identify areas of improvement using relative comparisons. Let’s look at three specific ways to use industry benchmark data.

  1. Better understand what influences employee behavior. How do employees decide which messages to pay attention to and which to ignore? Without data, communicators are left in the dark. But with data, leaders can see the effect of different ‘from addresses’ and subject lines.

    So, how do you know if your results are above or below average? This is the power of benchmark data. By reviewing your results against comparative industry data, you can confidently make the strategic decision to send from your own name versus a generic mailbox. And you can choose to keep subject lines to less than 7 words (since that’s what performs the best). Benchmark data provides valuable reference points for your own KPIs.

  2. Strategically choose how to spend your time. Should your communications team focus their limited time on (a) writing new long-form articles, (b) editing content into short paragraphs and bullets, or c) editing content to appeal to specific (less general) audiences? Good benchmark data can help answer questions like these.

Benchmark data shows that the highest readership comes when messages take less than two minutes to read and are less than 500 words long. And the highest engagement comes from smaller, more tightly-focused distribution lists. These points alone prove that communication teams should spend more time editing and revising their content for more focused audiences.

  1. Take an analytical approach to improve results. While communications is primarily a creative endeavor, combining that with analytical data will prove which strategies and tactics work and which do not. Collecting your own data, and comparing it to industry benchmarks, will help you identify not only the best practices and KPIs that matter for your organization, but will reveal the channels, cadence, and narratives that are moving you toward your organizational objectives.

When your creative work is informed by objective data, and expectations are level-set using data from industry norms, you can achieve more meaningful results with evidence to back up your creative instincts.  By better understanding how your audiences engage with your messaging — and using data to guide executive decision-making — you free yourselves up to do more creative work. Ultimately, helping you better inform and engage your employee audiences!

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