How to measure communication

The weakest area for most communicators is measurement. From knowing what measurement is, to how best to do it, it’s an unhelpful skills gap for many Comms and PR practitioners.

However, help is at hand in the form of a whole month worth of ideas and knowledge sharing from the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC).

They want to fill the gap between understanding the value of PR measurement and doing something about it. Sounds good to me!

In this article I look at what’s coming up and how to bust the jargon – see below for a glossary of terms to help you decipher the language of measurement.

Stacking up the pieces
I think of measurement like Lego bricks – pieces of information that are scattered inside an organisation.

Our role as professional communicators is to examine and assemble them in the correct way to show an accurate picture.

It’s not about making things fit awkwardly, but gathering the pieces of feedback, ideas and proof, and assembling them to depict your culture and the way things happen in your organisation.

Your employees will know if the final product is not a structure or image they recognise, which is why you need to understand which pieces you need to gather in order to end up with the right model for your company. If there are pieces missing, what are they and what is the model or structure you’re hoping to create?

So if you have the outputs (the pieces), what’s the outcome (the structure) and why is it the case? Are the pieces the correct size/shape or are there any surprises? Does that model match the one in minds of your leaders?

I could go on, but will bring us back to AMEC…

(If you follow me on Twitter @AllthingsIC, you’ll know how much of a Lego fan I am, so won’t be surprised by my thinking).

Measure what you treasure

Yesterday, Monday 4 September, was the official start of AMEC’s measurement month (although there was a CIPR NI event in Belfast on 1 September).

AMEC is the world’s largest media intelligence and insights professional organisation, representing organisations and practitioners who provide media evaluation and communication research. AMEC has more than 150 members in 86 countries worldwide.

Membership organisations including the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) are getting involved and there’s a packed agenda around the globe.

Measurement Month is being run as a series of special weeks in world geographies and is filled with free to attend events, webinars, executive discussions, podcasts, workshops and much more.

The Government’s Communication Service here in the UK has launched its own series of initiatives as part of its commitment to run more events to support AMEC’s Measurement Month than any other organisation.

You can see a full calendar of events on the AMEC website, follow them on Twitter @AmecOrg and use the hashtag #AmecMM to keep an eye on the conversations.

Tackling the hot topics

One of the hottest topics will undoubtedly be AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalency). My former CIPR Social Media Panel member colleague Richard Bagnall, who is Chairman of AMEC and Global Strategy Consultant, Prime Research is talking at a conference today on: “Why AMEC is running the “Say No to AVEs campaign.”

How to measure communication

Measuring communication is not a dark art. Honestly!

I’ve written about it numerous times on my blog over the past eight years and also profiled AMEC’s evaluation framework. If you’ve never used the framework, I urge you to give it a go.

When launching it last year, Richard Bagnall said:

“Many of the evaluation methods and techniques that the industry took for granted for so many years are no longer enough.

“We wanted to take the pain out of measuring communication in what has become an ever more complex world. This interactive tool allows organisations of all sizes to easily plan and measure their integrated communications activity, proving the value of their work in a meaningful and credible manner.”

See the AMEC website to access the tool – did I mention it’s free? Your comms will thank you…

Busting the measurement jargon

As a regular judge of industry awards, I think there’s a lack of understanding around the language of measurement. It’s consistently the weakest section of award entries, so I’ve clarified some of the jargon below to help you bust through it.

Every internal communication activity should be measured. You need to align your ‘strategic intents’ (what you want to achieve as an organisation) with your IC strategy.

Further reading: How to write an internal communication strategy.

Evaluation is the process of determining if you achieved what you set out to do and its impact. It can include metrics like adoption rate, take-up, comments etc and is often used to prove a return on investment (ROI) against business objectives. Can include external factors and many organisations produce dashboards of the results.

Writing on the AMEC website, Giles Peddy of Lewis has shared their client framework, which you can see below.

Want to know more? Here’s your cut out and keep guide to busting some of the jargon. I hope it’s useful. I’ve included my own definitions and some from AMEC/Lewis:

The language of measurement:

Inputs: This covers two important areas. Firstly, to define the target audiences of the campaign. Second, is the strategic plan and other inputs such as describing some of the situation analysis, resources required and budgets.

Objectives – organisational: AMEC state all good measurement needs to start with organisational objectivesThese can come in many different forms, whether they be awareness, advocacy, adoption or demand related.

Objectives – communication: Following on from organisational objectives, is communication objectives. These should reflect and mirror the organisational objectives. Remember, the difference between an objective and a goal is that an objective has a measure of impact (e.g. 20% increase in brand awareness), compared to a goal that is an aspiration (e.g. increase brand awareness).

Outcomes: What happens as a result of communication, such as a change in behaviour. This is not the same as output. (Output is what you do, outcome is what happens as a result of what you’ve done). This is the most interesting part and it’s what I look for when I audit organisations – I want to know what happened next.

Outputs: Something quantifiable that you can measure, such as number of issues published, clicks on stories and shares. However, this is not the same as outcome. AMEC state outputs cover core measures across PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned). So for example what was the reach of the paid advertising, how many visitors to the website, how many posts, Tweets or retweets, how many people attended the event, and how many potential readers of the media coverage.

Outtakes: Refers to the response and reactions of your target audiences to the activity. How attentive were they to the content, what was their recall, how well understood is the topic, did the audience engage with the content or did the audience subscribe to more information?

PESO: Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned media model. See this ace description from Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks:

Quantitative measures: Relating to numbers. (E.g. number of employee magazines written, number of articles written). I think of this as the what.

Qualitative measures: The quality rather than quantity of something. I think of this as the how/why. I use qualitative measures e.g. focus groups to understand the quantitative measures. In other words, employees may rate an organisation as X. Through qualitative measures such as listening via focus groups, I understand why they rate it in that way.

SMART objectives: SMART = specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

My golden rules

I have some golden rules when it comes to measurement.

They include measuring what you treasure – just because something can be measured doesn’t mean it should be. What do you place importance on – or to ask another way, what do you treasure?

Then, what will you do once you have measured it?

You need to align your measurement with an action plan. Say for example you note employees’ perception of line managers has gone down. You know it, perhaps you have some numbers or anecdotal feedback that proves it to be the case. But then what? Simply measuring for the sake of it does no one any favours if you’re not going to act on the information you’ve collated.

Identify what’s important to your organisation, what you care about, and then invest time, money and effort in gathering your data and translating it into action. 

Further reading about measurement via the All Things IC blog:

CIPR Inside measurement matrix


Learn about measurement

How are you getting on with measurement? I cover it in my Internal Communication and Strategic Internal Communication Masterclasses.

It’s always a hot topic and one practitioners want to explore and discuss. I share various models including some listed on this page and also point people towards Dr Kevin Ruck’s @academykev work, including his AVID model, which looks at Alignment, Voice, Identification and Dialogue:

Come and learn about internal communication

My courses all take place in London and I’d love you to join me at one.

IoIC and CIPR members can earn CPD hours/points by attending one of my Masterclasses. See the Masterclasses website to save your place for upcoming courses.

Thank you for stopping by. If you attend one of the AMEC measurement events or have your own story to share about how you measure your communication, I’d love to hear from you.

Feel free to comment below, get in touch or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 5 September 2017. Updated 2018.





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