Many of our day-to-day activities can be summed up well by numbers. Commutes are measured in miles or kilometers, or minutes spent in a train carriage or traffic jam. The workday itself is measured in hours, although sometimes it might be better represented by cups of coffee.
But when it comes to the work that comms teams do, there is no easy – or indeed satisfying – measure for that. The function doesn’t have a single metric that establishes its value. Instead, comms teams must ensure that each of their activities is valuable by using an “outcomes-focused” approach to measuring them. This has three parts.
- Determine the business outcome you’re looking to influence – such as signing up a minimum number of employees to a new benefits plan or selling a minimum number of products from the launch of a new line – and how it can be measured.
- Identify which colleagues need to what to achieve the business outcome.
- Decide which communications activities and metrics will support that.
Although these three steps can be deceptively difficult, this outcomes-focused approach is important regardless of the campaign or activity you’re measuring.
Look Inside as Well as Outside the Firm
The most obvious campaigns are perhaps externally focused — in fact, when people think of “business outcomes,” they don’t often think of internal communications. But communications activity can certainly improve employee performance, and this is a business outcome that benefits all companies.
In particular, communications teams can encourage three employee behaviors that improve their overall performance: their understanding of company strategy, their capability or “know how” that enables them to contribute to achieving that strategy, and co-workers’ willingness and ability to learn from and share with each other.
All three result in improved performance and so, while there is no metric that encapsulates all that Communications does, proving that the function provides value to the company isn’t an impossible task. It just requires some initial thinking about outcomes, behaviors, and appropriate tactics. And if you do all this right, then your metrics aren’t just numbers on a page, but actually point to the accomplishment of something meaningful.