Why annual comms measurement reports are a waste of time

You should be measuring your success throughout the year—not a month before it ends. Here’s why.

The end of 2016 is upon us, and communications teams are scrambling to put together year-end measurement reports.

If you’re among them, stop it. Unless you’re diving deep into the data to produce measurement insight, you’re wasting your time.

Last year I wrote that annual communications reports are a waste of time, mostly because it’s silly to check your progress once a year in a communications environment that changes monthly. Imagine if, as a parent, the only time you checked your child’s health was right after Christmas.

The problem with annual activity reports is that they merely compile what happened: the releases released, placements placed and links clicked. They don’t tell you anything you can do anything about.

Hindsight might be 20/20, but if you can’t make decisions on it, who cares?

The people for whom you are preparing these reports won’t read or care about them unless you add insights. Leaders want to know: “What can we learn from what we did wrong, and how can we take advantage of what we did right?”

With the volumes of data now at our fingertips and the sophisticated tools that crunch those data, the answers are only a few clicks a way. I’m lucky enough to have clients who demand insight from their data, so they often ask me to crunch numbers and write reports for them.

They typically start with questions, such as:

1. “Did the effort we put into social media pay off?”

Step one is to understand what “pay off” means to senior leadership. Does it mean engagement, conversions, web traffic or qualified sales leads? Once you define success, it’s easy to find insight by running correlations between your social media metrics and conversions from social media in Google Analytics.

2. “Should we drop or expand our influencer relations program?”

Once again, you first have to agree on what successful influencer outreach looks like. Against that definition, you can look at your share of quotes in earned media, messages communicated and media positioning over time.

3. “What are the results of our content marketing programs?”

Most content marketing programs are designed to produce incoming leads or inquiries. To measure a program’s impact, as well as individual content pieces, pull data from your content management system, web analytics and CRM system. That’s how you connect efforts to results.

Obtaining measurement insight from a year’s worth of data isn’t hard once you have access to the data and a clear definition of success. More important, proving your business value is a much better use of your time than wrapping up all your activities in a pretty package.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Measurement Advisor.

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