Tag Archives: Sean Williams

Measure outcomes, not outputs, to judge the impact of communication

“If we want to be taken seriously as business people specialising in communication, then we have to stop desperately trying to prove our value to organisations.”

So says Sean Williams, Founder and CEO of Communication AMMO and adjunct professor of Public Relations at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Sean and his colleagues from the US Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission have just finished work on a study to identify a series of standards for IC measurement.

Their findings are due to be unveiled at the International Public Relations Research Conference in Orlando, Florida, in March.

Throughout their research, the group avoided looking at output measurements, such as circulation figures for internal publications and number of intranet stories published.

This kind of data is a staple in many IC audits and status reports, but Sean argues that it doesn’t reveal anything about how successful IC activity is.

For him, effective communication isn’t about the size of your audience, but about how that audience reacts to your message.

“We call it ‘look mommy’ communications,” said Sean. “But we have to be certain that we’re adding value to the business.”

Sean explained that during his research he and his group analysed three aspects of internal communication and how it feeds into measurable outcomes:

• IC activity (what we do)
• Outcome (what happened as a result)
• Business impact (how the outcome affects some aspect of the business)

For Sean, this goes to the heart of how we define ‘effective’ communication, and what needs to be measured.

He said: “The sophisticated IC measurer is going to make sure that whatever they’re doing – focus groups, interviews, whatever – they’re capturing information and trying new things to effect an impact.

“What is it that happened as a result of our communications, that changed the way people think or act? And did they take some sort of action in support of business results?

“When you can look at things and say, for example, ‘productivity is up but safety is down’, there might be a communication disconnect somewhere.

“That’s when you start to look at things like where you’re wasting time, where you’re losing productivity, where you can reduce your touchpoints, and so forth. That’s where we all need to be.”

To read more of Sean’s thoughts on the world of IC, check out his blog.