Measuring communications – what, why and how?
Why should communications be measured? Carma’s managing director Mazen Nahawi raises three important points:
1. It is, in his view, above all an ethical obligation of communications professionals to monitor the image of the organization or client company they represent. Image evaluation based on guesswork is unprofessional.
2. Measuring and analyzing communications will give communication professionals information on where they are when it comes to the goals set. How well have you achieved your goals and what needs to be done? New success can be built on the basis of previous success while simultaneously learning how to avoid former mistakes. Results can be shared with management or other interested parties.
3. An existing communications measurement process, which has become ingrained in the organization’s operations, reveals the value of communications and helps to justify why communications should get its own share of the organization’s business budget.
Setting goals, metrics, results
In order to get the maximum benefit out of the measurement of communication, the organization needs to internalize why the measurement project has been started. What is the goal of measuring, why is it relevant?
Communication goals should support the organization’s overall goals. Such a common target of the organization, whose implementation communication can strive to influence through its own actions, can e.g. be to increase awareness of the organization or improve its public image. Measuring communications helps to understand how well goals have been achieved. The results, in turn, guide future actions.
When the objectives of the organization and the communication goals that support them are known, appropriate communication tools can be selected to evaluate the reaching of the goals. Accurately defined goals set for metrics (e.g. a maximum of 10% of visibility in negative tone) bring meaningfulness to the analysis.
From the point of view of the organization’s communications unit, however, a focus on amount of publicity (increasing awareness) and tone (enhancing the public image) alone may be an unsatisfactory solution. For example, an organization may receive a lot of negative publicity during the period under review, without the communications unit having any influence on the matter through its actions. In this case, the tone indicator alone will not reveal how successful communications were in supporting the organization’s goals.
Metrics tailored for communications
Different proactivity indicators are often the most interesting metrics from the communications unit’s point of view. By evaluating their development, it is not only possible to explain how the communications activities have helped the organization to succeed, but also to highlight the role of communications within the organization.
It is often motivating for communications professionals to be aware of how well their own initiatives have worked their way into local media or how well the organization has communicated its key messages to media consumers. They would like to affirm how a certain theme has been brought forward successfully or how well the media representatives have implemented their organization’s communications strategy.
For example, an organization affected by an image crisis can, with proactive PR deeds, succeed in moving the media focus away from negative perspectives and show the management how publicity based on communications activities has been of a much better quality than the rest of the media coverage.
Systematic and creative approach
It is important to be systematic in the measurement of communications. Continuous measurement of the tone of the organization’s publicity and Attention Score (“quality and visibility of publicity”) help to figure out where the organization is going. However, the process of measurement also has plenty of room for creativity, which systematics as “modus operandi” allows.
For example, various kinds of data are worth combining to detect cause-effect relationships. The management may not be interested in how much likes or re-tweets a particular social media update receives. When merging this media analysis data with sales data, however, it may be possible to demonstrate that a social media campaign launched by the communications unit was followed by a clear sales spike or a growing number of newsletter subscribers.
Such an approach where the data is sufficiently freely available within the organization also contributes to communications not getting siloed within an organization as a separate island, but instead understood as part of a larger entity.
Thus, much also depends on how well communications professionals understand the significance of their own work and how well communication succeeds in becoming a part of an organization’s decision-making.
Marketing & Communications