The three kinds of internal measurement tools

The key to success is to first determine your communication goals. That, experts agree, should come well before even considering which tool you might use.

This is the first article in a four-part content series on internal email measurement. This series, in partnership with PoliteMail, will offer tips and multiple ways to improve your internal email communications.

If your first question when thinking about measuring internal communications is, “What tools do I need to get this done?” you should back up a few steps, says Katie Paine of KD Paine and Partners.

“There may not be a tool,” she says. “The tool is the last thing you need to be looking at.”

Define your goals and examine your failures first, Paine says. Then figure out whether you need a tool. From there, it’s a pretty simple choice from among three options. Download a free whitepaper filled with four case studies on how to measure and improve internal communications.

Getting on the same page

Though they may not be clear to everyone in the organization, every company has goals for what they want to do in internal communications. Businesses that don’t have those goals don’t stay in business, says Paine.

So why do companies end up in situations where they buy expensive measurement tools that don’t assess anything relevant to those goals? Blame it on a philosophical chasm between communicators and the C-suite, she says. The theoretical distance between the two persists from the college campus—where business and PR classes often are held in different buildings—into the workplace.

Vice presidents of operations may articulate their goals fuzzily, but they definitely have them in mind. Communicators and executives have to transcend any barriers and work together to state them clearly.

“If the VPs aren’t creating measurable objectives, then it’s up to the managers,” Paine says.

Luckily, the gap is gradually shrinking, Paine says.

“People understand that they need measurable objectives and they need to be accountable,” she says. “Maybe, slowly but surely, the silos are being broken down.”

The process of determining what is important is ongoing, Paine notes. Different campaigns require different measurements, she says, because they aim to convey a variety of messages.

The three tools

If your goal is to gain awareness and understanding of what your employees want, you need a survey or questionnaire, Paine says. Want to know more about engagement? Use a Web analytics tool such as Google Analytics. If you want to see how people are responding to key messages, get a content evaluation tool.

Those are the three kinds of tools, she says.

Of course, there are nuances to those categories. For example, employees’ wants aren’t necessarily monolithic when you’ve got groups of employees spread out in different offices.

Using a Microsoft Outlook tool called PoliteMail, communicators at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia discovered that employees in different offices weren’t necessarily interested in the same messages. Communicators plan to start targeting messages more specifically.

PoliteMail founder Michael DesRochers agrees that those three tools are the basics, though there’s an analysis component to analytics, too—a “weighted metric,” he calls it, to determine what’s working and what’s not.

Message targeting is easier now than ever before, Paine notes. Organizations could take a page from the micro-targeting of political campaigns to identify specifically how communicators can appeal to particular audiences.

Surveys don’t have to be the same for everyone either, Paine says. Westinghouse made its sentiment analysis into a game of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and it got more people interested.

Even so, she says, a new tool might not be the answer. Perhaps all you’ll need to do is increase the frequency of surveys and interviews you’re already doing or refocus your external communication strategy on your internal audience.

If you do decide you need a new tool, David Rockland, global director of research at Ketchum, lists some things any company should look for or avoid:

  • “Don’t buy measurement services that have a ‘special magic sauce’ kind of metric wherein you really have no idea how the numbers are derived and can’t produce them yourself if you had to.
  • “Start small and build out. So, for a global program, get it working in a few countries first, and grow from there.
  • “Make sure you have buy-in from the other parts of the company before selecting the final tool and metrics.
  • “For surveys, understanding sample derivation, questionnaire design and order, and weighting are very important.
  • “Don’t believe anyone who says they have the standard-bearer tools for social media measurement. The field is continuing to evolve and standards are still emerging.
  • “Ensure measurement tools help you see ahead as well as look behind.”

The importance of a pilot program

DesRochers says any company looking to avoid buying the wrong thing for them should start slowly.

“I think we’ve all made the same mistake where you get a great sales pitch, everything looks good, you buy it, and it’s really difficult to use or the time required to get everything set up is so deep it just languishes,” he says. “They key is a really good pilot program.”

Start with one or two big messaging arms—a newsletter, a CEO blog, or something similar—and test different tools on them with a “low-risk implementation.”

“You don’t lock yourself; you get a full use of the technology for a period of time to get an idea of real-world stuff,” DesRochers says.

Then you can determine what really works, he says, and connect a tool to your goals.

PoliteMail Software provides corporate communications teams with email measurement, metrics and management tools for Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. For more information, please visit

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