In its 2017 Global Communications Report, the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations asked communication executives how they felt public relations could increase its value to organisation. Interestingly, measurement of results was not their top choice (34%). Overwhelmingly, they selected demonstrating how PR achieves business objectives (77%). “This is the area where the profession continues to struggle”, says the report. “Of course, this requires measurement, but requires a more sophisticated and integrated approach that focuses on less-tangible variables like brand reputation and purchase intent.” Another interesting finding of the report defines strategic planning as the nr. 1 skill a communications person need. Source: 2017 Global Communications Report, USC Annenberg, Center for Public Relations The 2017 Global Communications Report surveyed more than 800 public relations, communications and marketing executives around the world. Our take: Happy to see these findings confirm the value of our Value Navigator. Our proprietary instrument to plan, steer and show the value of business communication emerged from these observations. It has been developed to support and grow communication professionals in these two top rated needs: strategic planning and linking communication outcomes to business results. For us, both needs are sides of the same coin.
In his recent podcast, Shel Holtz quoted the lack of measurement planning as the biggest `showstopper` in the many award entries he gets to judge. What applies to award entries is true for every communication program. Considering metrics at the end of your program will give you data that are readily available, but do not measure what you need. Three reasons underpin the need for creating an effective measurement plan upfront: Business alignment - What we want to show is impact on business results. Therefore, we must understand how the business will measure success, how we impact those success indicators and what difference we need to create. Quantifying that difference up-front makes it much easier to correlate communication outcomes with business results. For example, if the business wants to increase sales from new customers, I can run an influencer outreach program to support that business objective. To know whether my outreach program is having tangible business impact, I can then track the increase in influencers writing about us, and correlate the increase in influencer voice versus competition with the number of new leads. Meaningful metrics – Our communication work involves outcomes that tend to be less tangible than other business metrics. It is often easier to revert to metrics that measure actions or activity rather than the result itself. `Attendance`, for example, is often used as a `false` metric for engagement. Instead, an increase in information requests, in brand preference or in supportive statements tells way more about the actual engagement you have achieved. Designing relevant metrics that measure results rather than activity needs to be done deliberately and upfront, so we can build in the right tools to get the data we need. Intermediary effects – The outcomes we are aiming for are usually no one-offs. Several phases and intermediary effects pave our communication plan. We should be picking up signals across the entire process, and not just at the end, in order to steer towards results and adjust where needed. Defining metrics upfront at the output, outtake and outcome level will give you the actionable insights you need during implementation. Our tip: Draw an evaluation plan as part of your communication plan. Define relevant metrics at the output, outtake and outcome level. Start your communication planning from business KPIs, so you can correlate communication outcomes with business results.
There is nothing more relevant to the communications function than contributing strategic value. Yet, over 40%  of communication professionals find it difficult to link business strategy and communication, let alone showing their impact on business results. That`s not surprising. Most measurement focuses on tracking output instead of outcomes. And output metrics do not correlate with business KPIs, typically way further up in the value chain. ROI, as a possible measure for the business value of communication, is no longer considered a convincing metric by measurement gurus in the field. A different approach is needed to steer and show the business value of communication. Stepping outside of communication and looking what other disciplines do in the area of measurement, evaluation and reporting can open doors and offer practical solutions: International Integrated Reporting (IR) Framework: Their holistic definition of value covers six capitals (financial, human, natural, environmental, manufactured and social & relationships). We use it as the starting point in our Value Navigator, and work backwards to determine the specific communication contribution to business KPIs. Starting from business KPIs in your planning makes it much easier to create strong up-front alignment with business outcomes. Social programmes and CSR: The field of social policy and social engagement, be it public or private, has a long and strong commitment to impact measurement and evaluation (M&E). M&E is considered crucial to show accountability to both citizens involved and to funders and supporters. The field`s know-how on planning, monitoring and evaluating change and their practical experience in developing and managing M&E is a rich source on the practice and theory of evaluation that can be applied to communication too. Our tip: We use insights of both disciplines in our Value Navigator framework. Rather than trying to put the value of communication in words or numbers at the end of a programme, we start from how the business measures value and how communication contributes in that value creation process. Working backwards from the right starting point puts us in a better place to achieve and demonstrate business results, in a gradual interconnected approach. When your organisation is not working with KPIs, you can follow the same principle by focusing on the business`s definition of success. By asking the right questions, you`ll gain a deeper understanding of the ultimate quantitative outcomes the business wants to achieve. The Value Navigator, developed by Visualising Value, is an integrated framework to plan, steer and show the business value of communication. Compatible with the latest industry standards, it also breaks new ground in that it incorporates the principles of integrated reporting, theory of change and performance management. It comes with a hands-on toolkit to help communication professionals connect to business results.  Zerfass, A., Verhoeven, P., Moreno, A., Tench, R., & Verčič, D. (2016). European Communication Monitor 2016. Exploring trends in big data, stakeholder engagement and strategic communication. Results of a survey in 43 Countries. Brussels: EACD/EUPRERA, Quadriga Media Berlin.