One of the biggest challenges facing internal communicators involves demonstrating the value that we create through our activities and expenditures. This isn’t merely a problem when it comes to justifying budgets, it makes the process of prioritizing activities and resourcing them operationally – and politically – challenging.
Compounding the problem is the diversity of tasks that stakeholders ask of an internal communication team, ranging from the management of technical platforms and communication channels to event planning to the preparation and delivery of written and video content and often also including the analysis of surveys and other metrics.
An additional complication is the lack of consistent methodologies or measures that allow for an apples-to-apples demonstration of how a dollar, euro or Bitcoin spent on one activity delivers more punch than the same dollar or Bitcoin spent on something else.
Even though like-for-like comparisons of value add are difficult, I am proposing an initial step, a classification of communication activity against the most popular desired outcomes I’ve seen in my 15+ years as an internal communication pro:
Financial impact: does this communication activity directly target financial performance, and to what extent does it succeed in adding more cash to the bottom line, minus costs involved?
Organizational alignment: does this communication activity help the organization focus on common objectives and desired outcomes, and increase its speed in doing so
Visibility: does this communication activity measurably raise the profile of intended beneficiaries (and ideally, does that higher profile help deliver tangible benefits beyond the visibility itself)
Positivity: does this communication activity increase employee confidence in the organization and enthusiasm for participating in its direction of travel
Infrastructure development: does this communication activity increase the resilience, utility, or the return on investment of communication infrastructure?
Network effectiveness: does the activity make the informal communication network stronger, faster, better informed or more consistent?
In proposing these classifications, I’m not as much focused on quantifying the value add each delivers at the moment, but instead on being able to identify specific activities and demonstrate whether the organization’s “value portfolio” is appropriately balanced.
Once activities are organized and classified, the process of developing viable metrics within a company, and perhaps comparing activities in one category across companies could also become possible.
I also think using this approach to build a self-evaluation or team evaluation tool could be useful – I tend to focus on organizational alignment and network effectiveness, and sometimes my own approach can skew away from things like visibility and positivity.
This type of tool could also help integrate missing elements consciously while avoiding sudden shifts in tone or messaging.
This is a work in progress – do you think this approach makes sense, and how would you improve and quantify it?