It’s a challenge every business frets about: how to increase efficiency when resources are limited.
The challenge may be even greater for internal communicators, perpetually understaffed and tugged this way and that by competing demands.
SAS, a North Carolina analytics firm, has found ways to save time and boost efficiency using approaches ranging from analytics to content request forms.
Some tips for improving your efficiency:
Use analytics to save time.
It seems counterintuitive for those who say they don’t have enough time to measure in the first place. Yet measurement done correctly saves time, says Karen Allen Lee, SAS’ senior director of internal communications.
“We were killing ourselves in doing all these stories, and not getting as much feedback on them or hit counts through them,” Lee says.
SAS decided to pull back on the number of stories, but those it does run longer and people spend more time reading them. Hits went up, Lee says.
For every piece of content it produces, SAS tracks analytics such as unique hits, feedback and comments. Lee also writes monthly reports on all of its activities and internal communications channels.
Align content with your business goals.
A while back, Kate Moye, a senior associate communications specialist at SAS, was overwhelmed with requests for video. “It was pretty crazy,” she says.
All that changed thanks to measurement. “Now that we’re tracking all of our feedback, all of our hit counts, we see what’s not working,” Moye says.
That helps communicators avoid wasting time on content that few people read or watch-or that doesn’t promote the greater goals of the organization.
“You’ve got everybody in the company who feels their news is most important,” says Lee. “So how are you going to manage…? You can’t. You’ve got to align it to your business goals of your company, and your culture.”
At the start of each fiscal year, SAS business leaders set goals, which are then webcast to the entire company. This helps Lee to track the content and see how well it fits the goals. SAS communicators sort all content into three buckets:
- Business: This accounts for 80 percent of content.
- Culture: 10-15 percent.
- Overall operations: 5-10 percent.
Lee made a presentation to top marketing executives following this spring’s launch of an SAS platform. All the analytics she pulled showed how communications aligned with business goals.
Create a digital form for content requests.
At SAS, employees don’t hound communicators with emails asking for an article or video on their project. The employees must fill out a request form, also called a ticket, says Lee.
This form allows communicators to get analytics on all requests to see what part of the company they are coming from and who is making them. Staffers requesting content must check off which of the three communications buckets it would fall into.
Communicators can then use the information to decide whether to produce a given piece of content. For example, HR might submit a ticket requesting a video on a new benefit SAS will be delivering in the future. (A benefits request would align with culture.) The ticket is dated, and communications can decide if and when to produce it. Communicators check the editorial calendar to see whether they have a slot for it.
“They fill out that ticket, and it opens up a request that gets sent to our chief editor,” Lee says, “and he then routes that ticket to the appropriate news person.”
In this case, the request would be routed from an editor to Katie Howard, a writer and communications specialist who is the HR beat reporter. Not only does this efficiently resolve the request, but it also provides data for later tracking what kinds of content SAS is producing, and what is most popular.
Learn to say no—and justify your decision with data.
Part of dealing with the hurricane of content requests is learning how and when to say no, the SAS team reports. Afraid of stepping on toes? That’s where analytics can help.
Lee says communicators are now armed with data when they report that one kind of proposal works better than another. Or they can say, “Maybe there’s another alternative communication channel, because it really doesn’t apply to a wide SAS audience. Employees at SAS don’t want to read about one specific, very technical detail that maybe only 200 people care about.”
When communicators use metrics, they can win the trust of their colleagues. Nobody wants a flop-certainly not the associate begging for coverage. When you use data to justify decisions, employees will begin to trust you.
They may be willing to hear you say, “Hey, the story that you want to do-let’s take a different direction and bring in other aspects and make it applicable to other people. It’ll get better readership,” Howard says. “Maybe add a video feature or add something visual.'”
That means you spend your limited time on tasks that really make a difference.