Not everything that can be counted counts.
Not everything that counts can be counted.

William Bruce Cameron

Seanwilliams-tieHistorically, marketing functions needed to be far more sophisticated in measuring the impact of their activities than their colleagues in corporate communications, including internal communications. Marketing campaigns have been subject to much more scrutiny from the boardroom due to the relative size of the investment and the clear impact on sales and the bottom line. Return on Investment (ROI) calculations can be directly attributed to isolated marketing activities to demonstrate causal relationships, not just correlations, and internal communicators are only now dedicating time and attention to measurement, let alone reaching for a more sophisticated, deeper evaluative strategy.

In contrast, corporate communications outcomes such as corporate reputation and stakeholder advocacy are much more difficult to isolate, measure and demonstrate a direct link to profit and shareholder value.  Though employee engagement is widely measured and formal research shows strong linkages to differential performance, the value of internal communications hasn’t been as widely recognized in the boardroom, except in terms of change management, impact on retention and on recruitment.  The potential negative impact of poor employee relations and associated crises are also noted, but these outcomes need further research and measurement by internal communicators.

With much more focus on purpose as a driver of profit, the impact on people and the planet is becomingly increasing more important to the boardroom, as nonfinancial indicators begin to find their way onto the Balanced Scorecard.  The old-world raison d’être of marketing being about selling more products to more people for more money, more often is not unsustainable in the new-world economy, nor does it represent an attractive employee value proposition, particularly to the emerging millennial workforce.

Creating a dialogue with colleagues, communities and customers has never been so important to innovate products and services that create value and win hearts and minds. A deeper understanding of the impact and effectiveness of how we communicate is required, especially for our internal advocates. Employees are companies’ number one stakeholders. Research has shown that effective internal communication matters for employee motivation, productivity and organizational performance. However, there has been a lack of consensus regarding how to measure the success of internal communication efforts or simply on what to measure.

That’s why an international team of 10 internal communication practitioners, academics and consultants came together to develop standards for internal communication measurement.  With representation from North America, the UK and Europe, the team is seeking to recruit an Asian/Antipodean member to broaden its global perspective.

I’m proud to be leading the team, and as we clearly defined our mission, scope and approach, we realized we were in uncharted territory. With an eclectic group with various levels of knowledge, experience and interest, the definition phase took no small amount of effort, but we have made significant progress.

We patterned our work after the team that developed the standards for traditional media measurement, starting with defining key outcomes, both from academic and practitioner sources, which wasn’t as easy as you might think! We then articulated means of measuring performance against each, as the baseline measurement of each outcome.

Over the course of the next few weeks, this process will pick up steam, as we prepare to present our initial findings at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference.  We look forward to a stimulating discussion!  We also plan to write a white paper on the initial work and present it,if accepted, at the International Public Relations Research Conference in March 2016.  Both of these presentations will allow us to test assumptions and set the stage for further development, and will likely include qualitative and quantitative research.

In the meantime, we welcome your input by sharing what you are doing in the field of IC measurement or even joining our team, especially if Asia or Australasia is your region of interest/practice.

Sean Williams is owner of Communication AMMO, Inc., which helps organizations improve their communication and measure the results. He is a member of the IPR Measurement Commission, past chair of the PRSA Employee Communication Section, and a member of AMEC  and IABC. Follow him on Twitter @CommAMMO.

The Internal Communication Measurement Standards task force includes Sean, and the following:


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

4 thoughts on “Corporate Communications Counts and Can Be Counted

  1. Sean,
    This is a great initiative and an important one. I would very much like to incorporate the results of your deliberations in GBOK which attempty to describe all the ksa’s one needs to.practice public relations and communication management. I think the timelines are on similar paths. Let’s keep in touch and if I can help, please let me know. I will be in Miami next March.

Leave a Reply