How internal communicators can develop a ‘value portfolio’

The time and money you require to reach and engage employees must deliver ROI in the eyes of the higher-ups. Try these approaches.

One big challenge facing internal communicators involves demonstrating the value that we create through our activities and expenditures.

This isn’t merely a problem when it comes to justifying budgets; it also makes prioritizing and resourcing activities challenging-both operationally and politically.

Compounding the problem is the diversity of tasks that stakeholders ask of an internal communication team, ranging from the management of technical platforms and communication channels to event planning to the preparation and delivery of written and video content. Then there are the analyses of surveys and other metrics.

An additional complication is the lack of consistent methodologies or measures that allow for an apples-to-apples demonstration of how a dollar, euro or Bitcoin spent on one activity delivers more punch than the same dollar or Bitcoin spent on something else.

Even though like-for-like comparisons of added value are difficult, I am proposing an initial step—a classification of communication activity against the most popular desired outcomes I’ve seen in my 15+ years as an internal communication pro:

  • Financial impact: Does a particular communication activity target financial performance, and to what extent does it succeed in increasing the bottom line?
  • Organizational alignment: Does the activity help the organization focus on common objectives and desired outcomes, and increase its speed in doing so?
  • Visibility: Does the activity measurably raise the profile of intended beneficiaries? (Ideally, does that higher profile deliver tangible benefits beyond the visibility itself?)
  • Positivity: Does it increase employee confidence in the organization and enthusiasm for participating in its direction of travel?
  • Infrastructure development: Does it increase the resilience, the utility or the return on investment of communication infrastructure?
  • Network effectiveness: Does the activity make the informal communication network stronger, faster, better informed or more consistent?

In proposing these classifications, I’m not as much focused on quantifying the additional value each delivers at a given moment, but instead on identifying specific activities and demonstrating whether the organization’s “value portfolio” is appropriately balanced.

Once activities are organized and classified, developing viable metrics within a company—and perhaps comparing activities in one category across companies—could also become possible.

I also think using this approach to build a self-evaluation or team evaluation tool could be useful. I tend to focus on organizational alignment and network effectiveness, and sometimes my own approach can divert from things like visibility and positivity.

This type of tool could also help integrate missing elements while avoiding sudden shifts in tone or messaging.

Do you think this approach makes sense, and how would you improve and quantify it?

Mike Klein is a consultant, author and blogger, and is the owner of Changing The Terms. A version of this article previously appeared on LinkedIn.

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