The demand for monitoring the effectiveness of communications systems, practices and performance has boomed in the analytics age, and comms teams are under increasing pressure to share their numbers with internal stakeholders.
Communications is centred around engagement, informing and supporting a diverse range of audiences. But how can the successes of the function be highlighted to the rest of an organisation? This is where measuring comes in, arguably the most crucial element of communications that is often relegated to the bottom of an overflowing to-do list.
Without measuring, how do you know if you have met the expectations of your department? How can you validate your team’s work to executive level? For any external comms team in any sector, it’s imperative to have tools in place to measure impact, prove value and embed ROI.
Keep reading to find out more about the demand for communications measurement, what your team should be measuring and why measuring is the key to comms success in 2021.
Where did the demand for communications measurement come from?
The need to capture effort, engagement and outcomes has arisen from the post-pandemic need for comms teams to justify their seat at the table. Proving that their work is a vital arm of the organisation and enhancing the strategic function of the comms department has suddenly blossomed into a priority for comms teams across the board, rather than an afterthought.
Executive teams have begun to expect analytics to measure results, however most comms teams either ignore the data or collect vanity metrics that demonstrate no concrete proof of their successes. In many sectors, especially within the public sphere, pressure has grown in the wake of the COVID crisis to prove that communications teams are engaging with their audiences who are in real need of informative content to support them.
What should my team be measuring?
How you measure communications within your organisation will vary depending upon your strategic objectives. For example, communications leaders within the policing sphere will be eager to measure public confidence in their content. In contrast, a membership organisation or union will measure their successes not just on web traffic but growth in their membership.
The Barcelona Principles outline the 7 principles for evaluating the effectiveness of communications. They were the first framework of their kind and were particularly important as the field adapted to increasing internet usage. With these principles in mind, we would encourage all external comms teams to measure these 9 things:
- Progress against goals
Based on Principle 1, the setting of goals that can be measured and evaluated against is crucial to comms success.
Rather than generating a set of empty KPIs, creating goals that are structured around affecting change will do the most to demonstrate your progress to the rest of your organisation. Is your aim to increase membership sign-ups? Increase organisation revenue? Set a number against it and work backwards on how to get that number. And if you don’t have the numbers to hand, reach out to other departments to find out the specifics. The less you’re in the dark the clearer your goal-setting will be.
- Internal and external impact
And on that note, measuring your impact externally is central to demonstrating your efforts internally. With many comms teams facing increased pressure to present data to internal stakeholders to highlight the success of their work, it’s vital to keep track of your successes on both an external and internal level.
Generate detailed reports that can be shared internally with stakeholders at all levels, up to and including board presentations. Or ask someone in your company to put together a Google Data Studio - it’s free and automatically pulls numbers in from different sources of platforms. Want to show how engagement levels, social media impressions and press pushes have had a positive impact on your organisation? Compiling it into an easy enough format then constantly referring back to the wider organisation goals at hand is the best way to have both internal and external impact.
- Anything but AVEs
Principle 5 opposes the focus on Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) as comms is too complex to be reduced to a single metric. No simple financial value will truly account for the effectiveness of communications.
Avoid, avoid, avoid. The end.
- Social media (but not in favour of your other channels)
Social media is a key player in many comms strategies in 2021, with an increasing number of organisations turning to social platforms to deliver messaging, raise awareness and expand reach. But favouring social media, and its measurements, over the bread and butter comms of your organisation could negatively impact your efforts.
Firstly, ask yourself what are your goals? What does success look like for you and your stakeholders? Theen audit the efforts and resources being ploughed across your channels to-date. Calculate the ROI on each and cull those that aren’t serving your content goals. Reminding yourself of your wider goals and linking it back to your social media efforts is the best way to stay on track.
- Accessibility across the board
Web accessibility metrics, as outlined by W3C, “help indicate the accessibility level of websites, including the accessibility level of individual websites, or even large-scale surveys of the accessibility of many websites”. It is imperative to pay attention to web accessibility metrics to comply with Web Content Accessibility guidelines and to ensure that your content is accessible to a wide range of audiences.
There several checks you can run yourself spanning contrast, images, captions and manually reviewing site and content design. We’d always recommend reading the guidelines back to front as well. Then you can measure your efforts against the metrics including validity, reliability, sensitivity, adequacy and complexity. Also what about your third party applications? Do they also comply with the new EU accessibility standards? If not, move on. Set a standard for accessibility and use it as a benchmark against other organisations or the average in your sector.
- Qualitative data, alongside the quantitative
Rooted in the fourth Barcelona Principle, we encourage communicators to use a healthy mix of qualitative and quantitative measures to inform evaluation. Whilst tools like Google Analytics will provide quantitative data, it’s important to also measure the quality of your communications to determine how your target audience feels about your content.
How? Google Analytics can tell you all about your traffic, click through rate and session length. We’re not saying that’s not useful, but we are advocating for adding CSAT, page-specific insights and engagement metrics to the mix to really strengthen your measurements of success.
React & Share enables users to uncover page-specific quantitative and qualitative data, listening to audiences rather than tracking them on a page by page basis. It doesn’t get more illuminating than that.
- Reader engagement (not just bounce rates)
Website content has always been approached quantitatively, with views, bounce rates, reach, and likes being highly regarded and influential in data-driven decisions. However, bounce rates do little to present the lasting impact of your content.
Switching the focus to consider engagement, such as the length of time spent on a page and revisits, could make your measurements all the more valuable. React & Share also features a handy engagement score to tell you straight up just which pages are the most engaging. This helps when you’re budgeting for new campaigns that lead back to your website - don’t let the website falter your efforts at the very last hurdle.
- Customer satisfaction
Measuring customer satisfaction is fundamental to understand how readers feel about your content. Customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) are a sure-fire indicator of just how well your team is performing their duty to create informative content that serves audiences.
CSAT is measured by customer satisfaction surveys that target customers with very specific questions such as “Did you find the information you were looking for?” or “Was this article helpful to you?”. The more yeses, or positive answers, the higher your CSAT score will be.
CSAT can be gathered from feedback widgets, feedback tools used in-site or in-app, email surveys and even from analytics data. At React & Share, we have embedded CSAT within user buttons and dashboards to track CSAT over time and identify trends.
You can also order your articles by their CSAT scores to prioritise your content improvement. Order by lowest or highest first depending on what you want to see. But also, compare this month's CSAT number to the previous month to justify your comms budget and efforts to any stakeholders who may think otherwise.
Google Analytics can also help to measure customer satisfaction through gaining insight into your audience’s habits. Time spent on pages and bounce rates can also give you some idea about how happy your customers are.
Any time a reader shares content, it is likely that that share represents a vote of confidence in your organisation - that your content is perceived as reputable, accessible, trustworthy and engaging. Having audiences land on your page is one thing, but a share demonstrates the capacity for your content to have a wide ranging impact and help those you may not have been able to reach without a share function.
Not all web pages have share counts, but there are tools such as SharedCount or CrowdTangle to help with that. React & Share displays shares in the dashboard, reports your websites share count and gathers statistics on copy and pasting for the ultimate share insights.
But what about bad measurements?
We hear you. The fear that bad metrics, or poor feedback, could create more risk is a real one. But worse than bad feedback or poor metric performance is no measurements at all. Without measuring your efforts, it appears to your audience that you don’t care about them, and to your board or executive team it may appear that you don’t care about your function within the wider organisation.
Measuring your comms efforts has more of a positive impact. It allows you to justify spend, budget increases, and the employment of comms staff when there are actual numbers attributed to your communications. Just look at sales, customer success or other departments who seem to be growing - it’s because they validate their learnings and successes with easy to explain data, and comms teams deserve the same leverage.
Does measuring infringe on privacy?
Barcelona Principle 7 outlines that measurements should never come at the expense of integrity and transparency. Embedding measuring into comms strategies and paying attention to the data is not synonymous with compromising audience privacy and listening to your readers is much more important than tracking them.
If you decide to use React & Share to aid your communications measuring, we are GDPR compliant, and do everything in our power to not know your customer. No names, no emails, just pure feedback. We can show you what we mean during a free consultation if you’re interested. If not, that’s ok too.
How can measuring drive success?
We’ve found that measuring your comms can drive success at both an individual and organisational level. Additionally, one of our customers recently used their measurements to present data to the board of directors, highlighting the irreplaceable value of the comms team within their trade union.
Ultimately, measuring hands you the tools to determine your own success. Through effective measurement, comms teams can see just how far they’ve come with their work, and just how far they have to go to uphold their brilliance.
We’re acutely aware of the need for comms teams to take steps to prove the worth of their work and demonstrate the strategic value of communications. We’d love to help you to help you justify your seat at the table - so if you’d like to, book a free consultation with us here to find out how.