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The seven deadly sins of measurement

I’ve been judging awards recently and measurement seems still to be the holy grail, with some teams really hot on measurement and evaluation of their efforts and others either not measuring at all or looking through only a limited lens. Got me thinking about the perils and pitfalls of this hot topic, so here are my Seven Deadly Sins of Measurement.  How many are you guilty of?

1. Not measuring at all

Let’s start with the obvious. You’re busy. Your team are busy. Look at us! We’re so in demand! We’re in that meeting… working up that campaign… writing that email… Why? What for? Who’s reading it? If you don’t measure your activity, you’re a busy fool. You don’t know the right place to spend your blood, sweat and tears – and busy does not a business case make or protect you when the restructure axe comes swinging.

2. Measuring the wrong thing

All measurement is equal, right? Not so. Have you agreed with your stakeholder the outcomes of the project you’re supporting? That’s what you should be measuring. I use an ‘engagement curve’ to plot agreed outcomes along the comms journey – from awareness and understanding through to buy-in, commitment and ownership (where people start to take action). It shows me what I should be measuring at each stage of a comms plan. It’s no good showing that 1,500 people have read your beautifully-crafted intranet article if nobody is actually following the new way of claiming expenses.

3. Hits or hearts?

Your vital statistics – hit rates, viewing figures and downloads of documents – are a good indication of your awareness waistline. And for some projects, getting people to awareness or understanding is plenty. For others, though, your business is looking for a change of behaviour. That requires hearts as well as minds, habits rather than hit rates.

4. Keeping your successes to yourself

It’s tempting to put all the comms planning effort into the early stages. We build a detailed comms plan and map out every step of delivery. We burn the midnight oil over the campaign materials. The project doesn’t end when the posters come down. A project closedown report is as vital as the start-up plan. Make sure you present back to your stakeholders at every step of the way and certainly at the end of the campaign to show how your comms have met their objectives. It can hardly be a bad thing if you can include some of your impressive achievements in your own performance review… Oh stop, you’re making us blush.

5. Doing what you’ve always done

The great advantage of measuring at every step is that you’ll soon pick up if things aren’t taking you where you need to be. Listen to the jungle drums and be prepared to adapt or bolster your comms approach. Chances are your messages aren’t getting through if the HR mailbox is bursting with questions about the new policy, the programme office is taking calls from directors about the impact on customers, or line managers are beseiged by worried colleagues who have heard a rumour. Don’t stick unswervingly to ‘Plan A’ when the insight tells you a detour is needed.

6. Beware data distrust

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve presented the results of the satisfaction survey to senior managers who have dismissed the findings because we didn’t ask enough people… or because Site X has a negative culture… or Team B have just had a change of manager. Agree upfront what a credible representative sample will be. Work with your stakeholders in the early days to explain what they can expect from the findings. After all, once you hit a certain response rate, you’ve captured all views and anything else is duplicating.

7. Treating IC as a nice to have, not a risk management tool

This comes down to the ‘why are we here?’ question. Done well, internal communication is a risk management tool. It’s not a nice to have, soft business activity. If you believe anything less, then you’re holding yourself and your business back.

So, confession time – are you a saint or a sinner?

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