There is nothing more relevant to the communications function than contributing strategic value. Yet, over 40% [1] 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.

[1] Zerfass, A., Verhoeven, P., Moreno, A., Tench, R., & Verčič, D. (2016). European Communication Monitor 2016. Exploring trends in big data, stakeholder engagement andstrategic communication. Results of a survey in 43 Countries. Brussels: EACD/EUPRERA, Quadriga Media Berlin.