Tag Archives: internal comms

Measurement: taking the easy way out

It’s 2017 and internal comms still has a credibility problem – too often it’s marginalised in favour of ‘sexier’ comms; Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising…even Social Media.

To really prove IC’s worth, we need evidence to back it up. Hard, empirical data that proves IC’s impact.

For that, we need to turn to measurement.

Measuring comms is notoriously difficult, bordering on impossible. But it’s no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have.

The foundation to rock-solid measurement is to identify and agree your communication objectives. Without objectives, everything else is pointless.

The problem with objectives is that, too often, IC professionals fixate on outputs rather than outcomes.

What is an output?
An output is an easy-to-distinguish, tangible communication result — think email interactions, pageviews etc.

What is an outcome?
An outcome is something more subjective — think behavioural changes, corporate culture shifts etc.

It’s easy to see why IC professionals choose to focus on outputs, they’re inherently easier.

Think about how easy it is to share intranet statistics that show thousands of colleagues visited a certain page and stayed on it for a set amount of time – but does this really tell you if they absorbed the information?

Will they change their behaviour after reading the content? The real value of IC lies in its ability to perform ‘outcomes’.

So, how do you begin to measure ‘outcomes’? Well, once you’ve identified your communication objectives, you need to be able to turn outcomes into measurable data – either quantitative (numbers) or qualitative (words).

For example, your company has a new process that all staff need to use. You produce a printed leaflet, posters for public spaces, a company-wide email and an intranet story.

But how do we find out if employees have actually changed their behaviour as a result of the comms activity?

Let’s split it into quantitative measures:
? How many copies of the printed material were picked up?
? How many people opened the company-wide email?
? What were the statistics for the intranet story for the duration of the campaign?
? Line managers to supply numbers of staff adhering to new process.

And now qualitative measures:
? Ask a focus group of colleagues how effective the comms were for them. Did they pick up a leaflet? See a poster? Read the email, or intranet story?
? Ask the focus group if they understood the message of the comms. Was it clear?
? Ask the focus group if they have now started using the new process. If they have, what were the contributing factors?

It’s only by taking the results of all of the above together that we can start to paint a detailed picture of the ‘outcome’ – did employees change their behaviour? And why did they (or didn’t they) change their behaviour?

The beauty of this approach for IC professionals is that it not only proves your impact on the business, but helps you implement better comms campaigns in the future. Win/win.

Internal surveys: be right first time, every time

With so many plates spinning at any given time, it’s no surprise that even the most important tasks get pushed down the internal comms practitioner’s to do list.

Although 95 per cent of internal communications professionals say measurement is important, it’s the activity people spend the least time on.

This means that, when we do find time to commit time to internal research, we need to get it right.

During a recent meeting, a client of mine mentioned how surprised he was by the results of an internal survey he had conducted. A lot of the answers were so unexpected that he was convinced people had misunderstood the questions.

This made me think about how easy it is to get survey questions wrong. Consider how many times a day people ask you ambiguous, confusing or badly structured questions.

For example:

• ‘Do you do [activity] regularly?’ How often is ‘regularly’?
• ‘Can I help you with [task]?’ I don’t know. Can you?
• ‘Do you like [celebrity/TV show]’ How much insight will you really get from a closed question like this?

Of course, in the real world, most of us don’t stop to analyse a question’s grammatical structure before we answer (and those who do are likely to be struck off our Christmas card list).

If someone asks us a closed yes-or-no question to our face, we think nothing of volunteering more information than necessary.

In survey world, this isn’t always possible.

Ask a closed question and you’ll get a closed answer. Ask an ambiguous question and there’ll be no opportunity to correct someone mid-response.

Even considerate IC question masters who thoughtfully include text boxes for people to pour their thoughts into will invariably find that a yes-no question results in a yes-no reply.

These potential polling pitfalls mean we’re at risk of wasting our time and other people’s if we don’t get our survey questions right.

According to Elspeth Bradley, Research Director at Research By Design, internal communication professionals can use the following tips to keep their surveys on track.

1. Start by thinking about your key objective for the survey. What do you really want to find out?
2. Keep yes-no questions to a minimum – even if it’s just by including a scale of possible responses, as this will give more useful feedback. Make sure the scales you use are balanced, with a neutral mid-point.
3. Avoid asking two questions in one. This is confusing for recipients and you might not get back the answer you need.
4. Make sure questions are not ambiguous. If you’re not totally clear about your objective, you’re more likely to ask questions that are not on target.
5. When you’ve written your questions, test them on colleagues who aren’t involved with the survey. Ask them if they understood everything, or if there are any grey areas. Act on what they tell you.
6. Consider using an external research partner who can write questions for you and approach a project with zero bias (there will always be a degree of unconscious bias when data is collected internally).

Why does internal comms struggle for respect?

Probably like most IC bloggers, my laptop is filled with internal communications articles that I started but never finished.


Being brutally honest, some were simply too dull to be published. Some bit the dust purely because something better came along.

Such is life.

Now for the big confession: this is one of those aforementioned articles.

Yet there should be no shame in it.

This belter was cast into the wilderness many months ago while I devoted my precious time to more *ahem* worthwhile topics like cars being mistakenly blown up and how to politely ask people not to defecate in the shower.

However certain events in recent weeks brought my attention back to this certain effort – and this theme in particular.

I’m sure you already know where I’m going: that awful description of an IC professional in Cosmopolitan.

You know the one: “… the internal comms strategist is always busybusyverybusy – despite their whole job seemingly being about organising people’s birthday cakes.”


To be clear, this is not a hatchet job on Cosmo.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to upset a large swathe of the IC community with a few ill-thought out words seeking cheap laughs. Humour is subjective, after all.

Nor is this a knee jerk reaction.

I let the dust settle – because the rage at the crass wording has been expressed far more succinctly than I could manage.

Yet this tongue-in-cheek article does expose a harsh truth: how the internal comms industry faces a daily battle against unfounded perceptions.

It comes down to a single word: respect.

It may be merely seven letters yet its importance cannot be understated.

Generally, respect tends to be hard to earn and far easier to lose.

Casting a look over the Headlines IC blog over the past couple of years, the same question begs to be asked: does the internal communications industry, as a whole, get the respect it deserves?

It had begun to feel like times have changed.

And that’s why the Cosmo article is so frustrating.

Because it suggests the stigma of IC being something of a frivolous, non-essential part of a business continues.

Elaine Ng, then head of communications at Philips ASEAN Pacific, touched upon these challenges of recognition in this excellent blog posting for PR Week, : “When people look at internal comms, they tend to think about a nine-to-five job that doesn’t require you to go out to meet people.

“They think about a job that is narrow in scope and inward-looking where you occasionally speak with senior management and HR – all with the sole purpose of writing those newsletters, or what some call internal memos (yes, I still hear this term being used!).

“It’s worse when someone comes to you and says, “You’re in comms right, then can you draft this email that will go to all staff?”

This theme was reflected by IC practitioner Jane Revell, who highlighted IC being regarded as “PR’s poor cousin” in her ‘Myths about Internal Comms’ article.

But Jane is keen to point out that there is a bright outlook for IC professionals due to a shift in attitude.

She said: “Internal communications has traditionally been regarded as PR’s less exciting, less glamourous cousin.

“It has been great to see that the recognition of the importance of IC has grown so enormously in recent years.

“Communicators and senior leaders now realise the importance of valuing employees, first and foremost, as the people who drive the success of an organisation, and recognise the impact effective internal communications has on business performance.”

This view is backed up by numerous comms experts – keen to highlight that robust internal communications provide the foundations for commercial success.

It was neatly summed by in this blog via corporateclassinc.com: “Even for companies that prioritise customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees.

“Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organisation that has weak internal relations.

“Also, an organisation likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.”

Nicely put.

So perhaps – and this is just a thought – that there are some damn good reasons why IC professionals are forever “busybusyverybusy”.

Anyway gotta go: there’s cake to be ordered.

The emotional rollercoaster of change in internal comms

Whether it’s mild skepticism or all out panic, reactions to change vary greatly.

A common factor in change, however, is resistance.

Change leads us into unknown territory, which represents risk.

Familiarising ourselves with new things also requires effort.

In environments where time is at a premium, such as the modern workplace, this is an instant turn-off.

This presents a conundrum for internal communication professionals. We know it’s not an option to never refresh our platforms.

But we also know that changes such as relaunching a magazine, updating an app or altering a meeting schedule can create the kind of negative vibes that are toxic to engagement.

If you’re thinking of changing one of your main IC tools, take a moment to consider Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; the psychiatrist who created the eponymous model of grief management.

The Kübler-Ross change curve was originally intended to postulate the emotions of people who are experiencing genuine emotional trauma. Over the years however, it has also been applied to change management in the business world.

Could it also be applied to internal communication?

The popular perception of this model – that people move from emotion to the next in a timely sequence – isn’t quite right.

But what Kübler-Ross intended was to identify the key feelings associated with grief and how these affect people’s wellbeing. In the business world, we simply swap ‘wellbeing’ for ‘morale’ or ‘performance level’.

By empathising with audiences and taking proactive measures based on people’s likely emotional states, IC professionals will be in a strong position to ensure changes go smoothly.

Strategies for change management: guiding people towards acceptance and integration

Shock = Alignment
Engage with audiences at the first opportunity to inform them about the change, discuss why it’s necessary. Tailor the tone, language and delivery method of your messages to employee preferences.

Denial = Inspiration
Explain what the positive outcomes will be. Align business benefits with personal benefits so people will want the change to succeed. Make it clear that the change is happening, but be careful not to sound too authoritarian.

Anger = Maximise communication
When people are angry or frustrated, they need to be listened to. Provide maximum opportunities for communication between employees and key stakeholders for the change (sponsors, decision-makers, deliverers, etc).

Depression = Motivate
Understanding the reasons why people might be uncomfortable with change. Why might they be wary of a new-look magazine, or reluctant to try an app’s new functionality? Share stories about colleagues (or employees from other businesses if necessary) who had similar feelings but now love the new version.

Above all, strike a positive ‘can do’ tone in your messaging. Let people know that this is a change for you too, and lead by example.

Half of firms ‘failing to monitor intranet engagement’

Measurement is big business in today’s internal communications industry.

And rightly so.

As modern day internal communicators, we have the tools to monitor the effectiveness of messaging, channels, tools and techniques.

Comms veteran Sean Williams pointed this out in a hugely popular blog post: “We need to make decisions based on facts and data, not conjecture and conventional wisdom. That takes research.”

Such an approach makes perfect sense.

In fact IC experts across the board seem eager to put more emphasis on strategy in employee communications.

With this in mind, the latest research emerging on intranet measurement is somewhat alarming.

The report, commissioned by the Intra.NET Reloaded London 2017 event, saw more than 200 organisations quizzed over intranet habits.

More than 80 per cent of respondents confirmed they use analytics to track user habits.

However less than half (38 per cent) actually report the findings on a monthly basis.

The remaining 62 per cent did it less frequently – with one in ten NEVER reporting any findings to senior leadership.

Other key findings include:

• 65 per cent of respondents established an intranet before 2010.

• SharePoint was the most popular platform – with almost half (48 per cent) opting for the Microsoft tool.

• Responsibility for the intranet launch sat firmly with IC professionals (39 per cent) followed by IT (29 per cent) and Marketing Comms (16 per cent).

• More than half (59 per cent) have a dedicated marketing budget specifically for the organisation’s intranet.

To read the full report, click here….