Why you should ditch writing your year-end communications wrap-up

It does you little good to find out in December that your efforts last February went awry. For the health of your organization, you’re far better off taking your comms temperature frequently.

For years I’ve gotten a significant increase in requests for metrics during the final two months of the year.

Just as I sit here writing “the year-end wrap-up issue” of our newsletter, communications professionals worldwide are trying to sum up their own 2015 efforts into a nice, neat package complete with a lovely silver bow and gold stars.

I don’t deny the appeal of a spiffy report saying what a wonderful job communications/PR/social media has done. Still, I would argue that it is at best useless and at worst dangerous.

Imagine if the only time you thought about your family’s health was at the end of the year.

What if, no matter what ached and when, you waited until the end of the year to find out why? Most of us dutifully go in for an annual checkup (although even the value of that is being debated) whether we think we need it or not.

I’m lucky enough to have a sophisticated patient portal through which I correspond with my doctors’ office, updating them with my latest blood pressure readings, making appointments, and getting prescriptions refilled. When I have a problem, I have a great nurse practitioner to interpret my test results and make recommendations.

Regardless of how you get your health care these days, during the course of the year, we all take temperatures, get tested for various ailments, check our blood pressure, talk to a nurse practitioner about our medications, and measure our physical well-being in dozens of other ways. Never mind sporting a Fitbit or iWatch to monitor our every move.

Not to belabor the metaphor, but I don’t think you’ll get much argument these days that external communications affects reputation, revenue and ultimate success. The point is that in any organization good communications is vital to corporate health.

I don’t understand why some people wear a device to track their health every instant, yet in their jobs they measure how effectively they are communicating just once a year. If you find regular check-ins and checkups useful, then why wouldn’t you want the same for your efforts at work?

The brands we know to have excellent reputations, such as Southwest Airlines and PBS, all incorporate regular and frequent reporting into their communications practices. In addition to real-time monitoring, they report on employee attitude, customer perceptions and media coverage on a regular basis; plus, they use online tools for checkups when needed.

Though many organizations still conduct an annual or bi-annual employee survey, the truly excellent communications companies are replacing or supplementing them with quarterly pulse checks. For external communications the trend is the same, with monthly (or even weekly) checkups rather than waiting for year’s end to gauge progress.

Download this free white paper to discover smart ways to measure your internal communications and link your efforts to business goals.

Today’s modern communications dashboard equates to a patient portal, where you can keep track of your external and internal communications results daily or weekly.

If you’re lucky enough to have one, your measurement expert is the equivalent of your nurse practitioner, a valuable diagnostician who can help you interpret your results and keep you on track to a healthy reputation.

So dump that big expensive annual report, and get your metrics when you need them. That way you always have the data on hand to make healthier decisions.

A version of this article first appeared on Paine Publishing.

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