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.
- 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.