Why does measurement matter for internal communication professionals?
How can you measure internal communication?
What does good look like for IC professionals?
Why do IC pros think measurement is difficult?
What do our professional bodies say?
I’ve put measurement under the microscope in this week’s episode of the Candid Comms podcast.
About Candid Comms
The Candid Comms podcast launched in January 2021. It is a weekly show designed to connect internal communication professionals to the advice and guidance, to help you thrive in your role.
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Transcript of this week’s episode
You’re listening to the Candid Comms Podcast with Rachel Miller. Tune in for practical advice and inspirational ideas to help you focus on all things Internal Communication related.
Hello, and welcome to the show. Today’s episode is focused on why measurement matters for Internal Communication pros. And you will leave with one thing to know, one thing to do, and one thing to think about. I have a feeling it’ll be more than one thing to think about. You will want a notebook for this one. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
Let’s begin by what we need to know about why measurement matters for Internal Communication pros. And I’m going to share a quote with you, which is from Suzanne Peck. And Suzanne is the president of the Institute of Internal Communication, and I quoted her on my blog, the All Things IC blog, back in 2019.
She said: “Internal communication is continuing its steady rise in transforming organisational performance and working lives. Demonstrating value has to be part of that story. Successful companies measure their communications impact, a clear behaviour that differentiates them from less successful organisations.
Secrets to successful measurement involve having a clear purpose or objective that your leadership supports, benchmarking where you are before you begin, and measuring the difference at the end. Finding out what’s driving the bottom line around employee understanding of and commitment to company goals, strategy, and the strength of the employment brand are more useful than knowing how many people clicked onto an internet story.”
She concludes that quote by saying, “I think in the past we’ve considered measuring internal communication to be too hard, too time consuming, or beyond our budgets. Measuring effectiveness and listening are core competencies on the Institute of internal communication profession map and are a vital part of our diplomas and masters.”
What do you think about that quote? I really like it. There’s so much to unpack in there, but the key thing for me is the honesty. It is easy, theoretically, in some organisations, if you’ve got a good software in place, to measure the numbers of views on an internet story or the number of clicks on an internet story. Now you may be listening to that thinking, “Well, yes, Rachel. Ideally, that is a very simple thing to be able to measure. However, we don’t have the right software or we’ve got an old legacy system.” I hear you. You are not alone. I encounter many internal communicators who are frustrated at the lack of metrics that are available to them on what should be, seemingly, an easy request. How many people have clicked or read on our internet story? I hear you.
What I also like from this quote is the end part when Suzanne talks about, in the past we’ve considered measuring internal communication to be too hard, too time consuming, or beyond our budgets. Yeah, that is a conversation that I have frequently with comms friends and clients where people don’t actually know what to measure, how to measure, how to demonstrate value, and therefore the easiest thing to do is to measure what we can or have a sense of measuring the outputs, clicks, likes, shares, number of attendees at town hall and events, rather than outcomes, which is the, so, what’s happened as a result of all of those interactions?
I want us to focus on what we need to know, and what you need to know is why measurement matters for your organisation. I believe that measurement is incredibly important because if we don’t measure, we can’t prove how good we are and how good the channels are and how effective conversations are that are happening inside our organisations. If you leave it up to chance, you have no way of being able to demonstrate, and therefore if you’re not gathering your evidence and gathering your proof points inside your organisation, you can’t possibly expect to ask for more budget or more resources. You can’t possibly expect people to understand the value of what you are doing if you are not measuring.
One of my golden rules for measurement, and I have many, but one of my main ones is to measure what you treasure. Now, this is a phrase that wasn’t created to think about internal communication measurement, but I heard it many years ago and I apply it for my own work in internal communication because you could measure all sorts of things.
If I ask you to list now the things that you measure inside your organisation when it comes to internal communication, you perhaps do measure the clicks on a story, or the number of comments, or the number of questions asked at a town hall, or the number of attendees at a webinar, or the number of people who have done your team briefing, or the number of people who have forwarded on the regular weekly email, or the number of views you’ve had on the CEO blog. I mean, the opportunity is just endless. There are so, so, so many things that you could measure.
Further reading: How to plan an effective Town Hall/All Employee Meeting – published 2022.
You could even go deeper and measure sentiment or behavioural change or impact. You could test for recall, what do people remember about our Internal Communication? You could do a mixture of quantitative, your stats, your data, your clicks, likes, shares, bottoms on seat at a town hall, and your qualitative, the gold dust for us as internal communicators, the digging deeper, the finding out the context. Why didn’t people attend X, Y, Z? Why did they do A, B, C? How do they feel about X, Y, Z? Et cetera.
There are so many things that you could do, but if you bring it right down to measure what you treasure, what is that? What do you treasure inside your organisation? Is it you treasure the number of people who’ve been able to contribute to something because you are trying to encourage employee voice? Great, measure that. Make that part of your condition of how you measure. Or is what you treasure that your people have credible, accurate, reliable information to share with your patients or your clients or your customers or your visitors? Great. How are you enabling that to happen inside the organisation? Because that’s hugely important.
Those are things that you treasure inside the organisation. What is the business treasure? What is your CEO treasure? What’s important on your internal comm strategy and what’s important on your organisational strategy? What does your organisation treasure? Those are the questions to be asking comms friends. Rather than the easy things to measure, think about, what does the organisation treasure? You could have two sets if you like, but I wouldn’t quite over-complicate it. I’d keep it simple. The two sets could be, what’s important to the organisation and then what’s important to us as a comms team? So maybe you have comms principles in place. They need to go together, they really need to dovetail together in order to be effective, to have a really complete picture of the organisation and how you are communicating and where the opportunities are where you’re not quite communicating in the right way.
So, that’s what you need to know. You need to know what to measure and you need to know, particularly, what do we treasure as an organisation? What’s super important to us? What is it that we need to then focus our efforts, our attention, our energy on? If you just measure everything because you can, but you don’t do anything about it, and we’ll talk more about that in a moment, it’s not good enough. In order to demonstrate the value of Internal Communication, you have to get intentional with your measuring.
I’m going to share a framework with you that I use constantly in my work and it’s to help me get really intentional around my Internal Communication. If you’ve listened to any episodes of the Candid Comms Podcast before, chances are you’ve probably heard me talk about this, but bear with me because it’s so critical to help you measure.
So before I do anything in internal communication, I set my intentions, and I look at what do I want employees to do, say, think, feel, and I often heard the word differently, so what do I want employees to do, say, think, feel differently as a result of my internal communication, and how do I want or need them to behave?
Now, if I don’t do that and I just launch into doing a campaign or initiative or a poster or an infographic or a story or whatever it might be, without setting the intentions, without looking at, what does good look like from this piece of content or this initiative or this campaign, it makes it really hard to measure. So if I don’t know what I want employees to do, say, think, feel, and how I want or need them to behave, how do I know they’ve done it? How do I know that this was a success? Or how do I know that actually there was no ROI, return on investment? All the time, money, and effort we invested in something was not worth it because people didn’t do, say, think, or feel certain things.
So I encourage you to think about that and include that as a framework. I’ll put it in the show notes, allthingsic.com/podcast and the show notes for this episode, so you can see it visually if you are a visual thinker like me. But those are super important questions to know the answer to. So, that’s what I want you to do. I want you to know what you could measure, and bear in mind, to measure what you treasure, and once you know what that is, then really get intentional. What you need to do is plan well and plan effectively. So, set those intentions.
You might have a variation of that. You might have think, feel, do. You might have know, feel, act. There’s various versions that are available, but I find this works really well for me, and it works really well for our clients at All Things IC. Getting clarity in terms of how to measure, what’s important to us, what we want good to look like in three, six, nine, 12 months time, keeps me focused, keeps me on track, and keeps me constantly measuring.
Don’t wait until the end, comms friends, because the reason measurement matters for internal comms pros is because you are able to demonstrate the impact of the work that you’re doing. So if you are doing organisational change, for example, and say it’s complicated, and most changes, frankly, if it’s tricky and it’s difficult and you’re really trying new things and you’re really trying to guide your employees through a change and you’ve set those intentions, you know what you want them to be doing, saying, thinking, and feeling, don’t wait till six months down the line. Check in with them. Listen to your employees. Pick up on the sentiment. What are they thinking and feeling and saying? What are the rumours? What are the concerns? What are the questions that they’re asking?
Because if part of your intention was that employees feel like the change is done for them and with them, not to them and at them, you need to know in real time. Measurement is a continual conversation, it’s a continual checking in. And the reason being is if you use a word like transformation, or perhaps a phrase like digital transformation, and you use it constantly, if you wait until six months down the line or a year down the line and you find out, for your colleagues, they don’t know what transformation means and they’ve never known, it’s too late.
So you need to know in real time, comms friends, how are people feeling about this particular phrase or this particular word? Does it make sense to them? You are testing for recall, and measurement matters in this scenario because then you can adjust.
If you find out after two weeks or four weeks that this phrase is not making sense for our people or they need it to be explained fully or better, great, I can do something with that. Measurement matters because then I can take action. If I just feel like, “Oh, I’ll measure at the end,” then I’ve lost that opportunity to refine my messaging, to check for understanding, to make sure it makes sense for our people.
If it’s something as big as organisational transformation or perhaps digital transformation, all these phrases we love, comms friends, there’s so many. But if you’re using phrases like this, if they don’t make sense to your people and you really need them to get their heads into it and align their actions and their behaviours, but if it doesn’t make sense, they’ll just turn off, they’ll tune out. They’ll see it and think, “Well, they haven’t told me,” they. “They haven’t told me, organisation, what it is, so it can’t be that important. I’m just going to ignore it because I don’t understand it. No one’s taking the time to help me understand what this is. Therefore, I’m going to tune out.”
Oh, my goodness, how valuable is it to know that in real time so you still capture those people and you explain to them and you help them understand, to guide them through the change and take them … We often talk about change as a change journey. If you’re trying to encourage them to come along that journey with you, if you haven’t explained things clearly at the start, they haven’t got off the starting blocks with you, they’re not going to come along for that journey. So measurement is super important because you are checking for understanding, you’re testing for recall. Does this make sense? What do you think when you read the word X, Y, Z or hear the word X, Y, Z? etc.
We are going to take a short break, and when we come back, we’re going to leave you with one thing to think about. See you in a moment.
Would you like to learn more about internal communication, and would you like to study it at your own pace? If so, I’ve got the answer. Head over to the All Things IC Online Masterclasses. There is a whole range of courses for you to choose from, from how to be an internal communicator, to how to write an Internal Communication strategy, how to write a 90-day plan, how to be a strategic internal communicator, and even how to be a comms consultant. And because you are a listener of the Candid Comms Podcast, you can save 10%. So head over to allthingsic.thinkific.com to explore all the options that are available to you, and don’t forget to use the code CANDIDCOMMS at the checkout to remove 10%. And I hope to see you inside one of those Masterclasses very soon.
Welcome back. In the final part of today’s show, which is focused on all things measurement related, I’m going to share with you one thing to think about, and this is a mistake that I see a lot inside organisations and it’s a really easy one to fix. I look at a lot of measurement reports. I have the pleasure of seeing them from the clients that we’re advising at All Things IC, I’ve created my own over the years, and whenever I’m looking at a measurement report, there are certain criteria that I am looking for.
I don’t want it to be a busy list. So in other words, if I’m looking at a measurement report and all I see is a busy list of the internal comms team have been busy doing this many stories and this many articles on the internet or this many events or this many town halls or this many slides on our digital signage, whatever it might be, I can see they’ve been productive. I can see that they’ve been busy, if you like. I don’t like the word busy. There’s a book on busy that I’ll share in the show notes. I’ll make a note to share that with you at allthingsic.com/podcast in the show notes for this episode, is a book by Tony Crabbe, which I recommend if you are suffering from the curse of busy.
Recommended reading: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much – by Tony Crabbe.
But when I’m looking at a measurement report, I can see that they’ve been keeping themselves amused. I can see that a lot of hard work has been happening, but how do I know that they’ve been busy on the right things? How do I know that this list of activities reflects what’s important to the organisation? That’s the first thing that’s often missing, where there’s no context, there’s just a list of activities, there’s lots of outputs.
What’s missing are the outcomes. So what’s happened as a result? And the number one mistake that I see made time and time and time again is the lack of narrative. In other words, “Here’s what we’ve done, this is what we intended to do, this is how we feel about it, and this is what we’re going to do before the next report.” So say this is a monthly measurement report. Then if it’s just a list of all the things that we’ve done over the proceeding month, proceeding period, then when I’m looking at it, I want to know how you feel. Are you pleased? Is the number of stories less or more than you planned? And the context is often quite easy to put in, comms friends.
So say it was August and the number of views to the internet went down. Well, there’s cause and effect there. The context and the narrative around it should be we have less views on our internet this month, and this is because it’s August, so we are not surprised because this is the time when some of our colleagues take their annual leave and therefore this figure is expected. No great shakes, not a big thing to add in really, but so often that is missing. And then that should lead to a conclusion.
So if I’m looking at a monthly measurement report, what I want to see is what you intended to do, what you actually did, what you think about what you did, so we could have RAG status, red, amber, green, traffic light style. We could have smiley faces, we could have sad faces, or could we just have some commentary in terms of how we feel about it? What was the context? There were less views this month, but it’s because there was annual leave, for example. And then the gold dust for me, comms friends, what I love seeing and I rarely see in measurement reports is, “This is what we’re going to do next month. So, this is what we’re going to try,” and you can break this down in however you need to, whether it’s channels, we’re going to do more people stories in X channel, or we’re going to retire Y channel, or we’re going to pilot something else. Great, love to see that. Or you can say, “This is what we’re going to start, stop, or continue,” for example.
Some of my clients have dashboards where they do things like, “We’re going to dial up this, we’re going to dial down this, and we’re going to remain the same.” Whatever that narrative is, whatever those words need to be for your organisation, whatever fits within the culture of your organisation, do that. Whether you are doing key performance indicators, KPIs, whether you are measuring against your objectives or your OKRs, your objectives and key results, whatever the language is of your organisation, reflect that in your measurement report, but don’t make the mistake of not demonstrating that you are acting on the insights that you’ve gathered.
The reason being, I find, when I oversee a lot of internal comms teams and I mentor lots of internal comms teams, I have a real privilege to do that, and I love being invited to peak under the hood of organisations. And for me and my team particularly, we see so many channels, and we see so many reports, and we see so much inside organisations, and it varies vastly in terms of what people are producing and how they’re producing it. But the golden thread for me, the common thread across all of them, when you look at what a good, effective, strategic internal communicator is, is that you’re demonstrating that you’re not only busy, but you are busy on the right things and that you are proving what you’re going to do differently as a result.
I ask at the end of most of my episodes of the Candid Comms Podcast, what are you going to do differently as a result of listening to this episode? And the reason being is because I build that into the way that I work, and I love seeing that in internal comms teams. I love it when I host team days at the All Things IC Hub, a beautiful training space in West London. When I bring a team together, I get them to reflect back before we go forward. And I want to know, what have you learned? What have you improved? What is it you’re going to do differently? And we do lots of action planning. What are you going to do when you leave this time together?
Because I want to see a demonstration of, as a result of all of the time, money, and effort people have invested in their internal communication, in their channels, in their activities, in their campaigns, is it working well enough for you? What are you going to do differently as a result of what you’ve learned from the previous month or the previous quarter? Whatever your reporting cycle looks like.
So don’t make the mistake of just presenting all the facts. Present the facts and put context around it. Put narrative around it. Put an action plan to it.
I am going to ask you what you’re going to do differently as a result of listening to this episode. I do love to know. Please do get in touch. You can find me online @AllThingsIC on Twitter. You can find me, rachelallthingsic, on Instagram. Look me up on LinkedIn, Rachel Miller, or send me a note via the website, allthingsic.com/contact. And remember, what happens inside is reflected outside. See you again soon.
Post author: Rachel Miller
First published on the All Things IC blog 3 November 2022.