Myth Busted - Golden Apple - Communication Dividend

Myth #3 explored: measurement is usually an expensive exercise without always being useful

June 15, 2016
“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” – William Shakespeare

Did you know 2016 marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare? This wordsmith is the mastermind behind many memorable quotes but the one above is one of my personal favourites as I believe it can be related back to budgets and the workplace.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times now, when you do anything for three decades, you’ll start seeing the same patterns appearing over and over again. While working with Communication/PR professionals, I’ve come to believe one of the reasons they tend to avoid or sidestep measurement is because of what I describe as the trade-off between resources and insights. And this largely relates back to high expectations and tight budgets. Combined, both tend to shift our focus towards delivery as opposed to questioning and discovery.

Anyone who has seen a Communication/PR department in action will notice the constant hustle and bustle and delivery of outputs. Brochures, newsletters, web content, media releases… the list is never-ending. So what would happen if instead, this focus on constant activity, was reduced and an emphasis was placed on discovery through observation, focus groups, analysis of feedback (compliments/complaints), online surveys and insight-rich stakeholder interviews?

In my experience, discovery is worth a whole lot more than constant activity as it delivers concrete answers as opposed to “guessing” what hits its mark with an audience. These days, the journey of discovery is easier than ever thanks to online opportunities that make the surveying of customers and constituents more affordable and achievable. Additionally, omnibus surveys are another affordable option, providing Communication/PR departments with the opportunity to include a handful of questions into an independent and statistically representative sample of participants, without blowing entire budgets.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about market research here. The needs of communication research are quite different as our interests are as much on the minority as the majority. Particularly in terms of the information related to search behaviours that act as guideposts for our messages. Are they being understood or is our target audience not following our message? Sure, we must acknowledge that there will always be a need for and value in exploring deep consumer insights that only primary research can deliver.

Some of the initial investigative questions I ask Communication/PR teams when I work with organisations are: have you been measuring readership patterns of digital tools such as e-newsletters? Are you using simple readability statistics that can be found through the in-built tools of Microsoft Word documents?

If both answers are no, this gives me a firm grasp as to where these departments stand in terms of measurement and evaluation. Whenever you’re in doubt as a Communication/PR professional as to whether you should be using metrics in your department, remember, the value of measurement goes back to understanding your goals.

  1. Are you under pressure to achieve more with fewer resources? If so, you need to have an understanding of the department’s efficiency.
  2. Are you unsure how people are accessing your online presence? If that’s a yes, behind the screen analytics are going to be invaluable.
  3. Are you trying to understand why your organisation isn’t attracting support for one of its initiatives? Initiate constructive conversations with people in your target group to gain important insights.

Back to our myth in question: is measurement always an expensive exercise? No. In my experience, investing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in research can prove to be a misguided investment for the Communication/PR sectors. Often, insights drawn from this kind of research doesn’t help to actually inform strategy. In many instances, it’s far more useful to invest in an analyst or analytical tool such as The Communication Dividend that provides organisations with real-time 24/7 insights in the fast-paced world in which communication now takes place.

If you’re keen to learn more about how The Communication Dividend can help to boost your organisation’s Communication/PR return and accountability, feel free to get in touch. In my next blog, I’ll be looking into why measurement and evaluation need to occur on a regular basis and not only as we head into the end of the financial year on an annual basis.

By Deb Camden