In a question-and-answer article at Melcrum, Angela Sinickas of Sinickas Communications, Inc. gives tips on communication measurement.
In developing a communication measurement strategy she recommends starting with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on how well the communication program:
- Supports business strategy;
- Reaches and meets the needs of various stakeholder groups;
- Has an appropriate mix of channels (type of channel, direction of flow, timeliness, etc.);
- Communicates the right messages; and
- Has the right organizational staffing, reporting relationship and financial resources to do all the above effectively.
Sinickas says an objective assessment should be done on what communication the company is sending out. This can be done through analysis tools such as inventories, content analysis and reading grade level tests. Audience input should then be gathered through qualitative research such as interviews and focus groups and quantitative analysis such as surveys. Information gaps, she says, will identify other content areas that need to be included in the measurement process.
Customer communication could also be measured by tracking communications against sales. Sinickas suggests the following ways to do this to eliminate other factors:
- Pre-test various communication approaches with different, demographically identical segments of the customer audience and use the one that brings in the best results.
- Measure the effectiveness of different types of communications in generating sales leads and actual sales, then calculate the revenue generated from each type of communication divided by its cost.
- Track customer calls on various topics, change communications to better address those issues, and then track whether the number of questions on those issues goes down.
The frequency of measurement, according to the author, depends on what is being measured, whether or not changes have been made since the last measurement, and the size of the audience. She cautions that surveys be done only once in every 12 to 24 months, especially with a relatively small audience of only several thousands. In times of major change, though, surveys may be done more frequently to track the impact of specific changes or announcements. Alternatively, mini-surveys may be done with small samples of the audience.
Internally, communication between supervisors and employees could also be measured through qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Sinickas advises conducting initial focus groups with supervisors and employees to identify the right questions to ask and the right measurement method. Among the issues that could be explored are communication skills, content and frequency of meetings
The author then recommends the following quantitative measurements:
- To assess the general level of supervisory communication, administer an employee survey to a random sample of employees and use that information to prioritize communication training content.
- To assess the communication effectiveness of individual supervisors, conduct a survey of all employees to obtain enough responses to tell how well supervisors in different organizational units are doing. Surveys can be administered in work groups to assess the skills of the group’s own manager.
- Conduct 360-degree appraisals on each supervisor from peers, subordinates and bosses, asking managers to evaluate themselves, as well, and then comparing the results with how their subordinates rate them.
Sinickas suggests that results of the internal communication measurement be fed back in a “cascade” from top management to individual work groups to enable each group of evaluators to be candid in a “safe” environment with their immediate supervisors.
Feedback is intrinsic in communication and, therefore, communication measurement should, indeed, be an integral component of effective business communication.