This blog is presented by the IPR Measurement Commission.
“Insights from Industry Leaders: A Maturity Model for Strengthening Communication Measurement and Evaluation” examines the characteristics, objectives, and practices of 20 chief communication officers (CCOs) with successful measurement and evaluation programs. The complete study was published November 1, 2018, by the International Journal of Strategic Communication.
Findings indicated that when senior communications executives overcome perceived barriers and put in place effective communications research, measurement and evaluation programs, they not only execute demonstrably more successful communications campaigns, but they also achieve greater stature within their organizations and grow their communication functions accordingly.
Three key dimensions of practice emerged from in-depth interviews. Respondent communication executives’ research, measurement and evaluation programs were:
- Used to adjust communication strategies
- Aligned with other business units
- Integrated with business priority plans
Interviewees also focused on the ability of communication research, measurement and evaluation programs to:
- Provide insights to executives outside as well as inside the communications function
- Connect the organization with the outside environment and stakeholders
In addition, the study offers a preliminary, scalable maturity model that aids in the development, formalization, and optimization of strategic communication research, measurement and evaluation. This framework is helpful to determine what practices are common at each stage of research, measurement and evaluation development, gaps that need to be addressed to move to the next stage, and common challenges encountered for advancement.
Adjusting Communications Activities and Providing Insights
While communications leaders in the early stages of maturity used research, measurement and evaluation primarily to plan and adjust communications programs, respondents with more advanced research, measurement and evaluation programs not only used research, measurement and evaluation for this purpose, but also to glean and share insights at the business and corporate level with business unit leaders and boards of directors. As one interviewee described, “There’s a ton of value to us being able to grow our investment in measurement as we become more efficient from the insights and the data that we’re capturing there.”
Business Alignment and Integration
Including organizational performance measures in overall communications evaluation was pivotal to how interviewees described their journey of maturity. Combining multiple data sources and developing both business and communications insights from them, enabled interviewees to reach out to other business units to share tools and contribute to business-level decisions. Concurrently, these communication executives honed their ability to show straight lines between communication efforts and business results, and departmental growth followed.
Increased Influence and Stature
Blending multiple data sources and deriving insights from them also enabled communications leaders to build partnerships with other business units. By acting as data-led internal consultants, these communicators helped drive the strategy, planning, messaging and content for those units. This elevated the perception of the communications department further increasing engagement across the business.
Evaluation activity had a positive effect on the overall communication department’s stature within the organization and on the attitudes of staff. According to one respondent, “…by giving strategic input I raise the reputation of my department.” Staff also felt appreciated and well respected within the organization when able to articulate their value through numbers and demonstrate how their work drives business needs.
The paper was supported by the Institute for Public Relations and authored by Rebecca Swenson, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota; Nathan Gilkerson, Ph.D. of Marquette University; and three IPR Measurement Commission Members: Fraser Likely, Forrest W. Anderson, and Michael Ziviani.
Michael Ziviani is the founder and CEO of Precise Value Pty Limited of Australia. He is a member of the IPR Measurement Commission. Follow Michael on Twitter @mikeziv.
Forrest W. Anderson is an independent communications research and strategy consultant. He is a founding member of IPR’s Measurement Commission.