Measure the right things

"If I've got correct goals, and if I keep pursuing them the best way I know how, everything else falls into line. If I do the right thing right, I'm going to succeed." — Dan Dierdorf

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“If I’ve got correct goals, and if I keep pursuing them the best way I know how, everything else falls into line. If I do the right thing right, I’m going to succeed.” — Dan Dierdorf

Deciding what to measure is the most critical decision you will make in dem- onstrating the value of communication to your business. And the key distinction to make is this: Do you measure outputs or outcomes? Outputs are short-term, tactical results. They are the accumulations of our communication activities. To measure outputs is to measure the obvious—exposure, attention, attendance, circulation, etc. Certainly, measurement of outputs has its place—even in a strategic communication plan. The primary tool for measuring outputs is a survey. You ask the audience to share their media preferences, their reactions to presentation methods, their responses to various writing styles, and even how they use and navigate the media you employ. With so many new options available to communicators—including podcasts, blogs and other new social media—the need to measure outputs is even greater, especially since their effectiveness is largely unproven. Output measurement is fine if you want to know how well your communication tools are working. Your internal customer,however, is not primarily concerned with communication tactics. Organizational communication exists to help achieve business objectives and solve business problems. The only way to measure the bottom-line impact of communication is to measure outcomes. Even if your internal customer were a micromanager or a wannabe editor, deep down he or she would rather know how the town hall meeting influenced employees’ attitudes about the new customer service policy than what percentage of attendees rated the meeting “good” to “excellent.” Outcomes are long-term, strategic results. They are the effects of our communication activities. To measure outcomes is to measure the mysterious—knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Know the difference between output- and outcome-oriented goals before you establish objectives for your communication plan or activity. The objectives themselves speak volumes about your sophistication as a strategic business communicator. Internal customers love to see their business priorities reflected in communication objectives.

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