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Five steps for avoiding the “Internal Communication measurement trap”

BY Mike Klein

Measurement.  For many years, measurement has been a source of frustration when it comes to internal communication and organizational alignment. Now, internal communication platforms and email tools offer a variety of embedded analytics and the ability to measure certain predetermined activities: clicks, open rates and adoption being the most obvious.

While embedded analytics can be helpful in adding numbers to the internal communication story, they also represent a potential trap for internal communication pros. It’s a trap that can actually limit the power and impact of internal communication measurement activity by emphasizing what’s easier to measure over what’s meaningful to measure. 

To avoid this trap, here are five measurement tips that will help your objectives and ambitions drive the process, rather than have it be driven by what’s easier to measure.

• Drive the measurement agenda - choose what gets measured.

• By far, the most important step is to choose what you and your business want to measure.  If you have priorities, ambitions, KPIs, measure the progress being made towards achieving those.  Measure actual performance, and if that’s difficult, measure what employees say is important - and then assess the gaps between what they say are priorities and what is topping the organization’s agenda.

• Don’t benchmark, baseline. • There’s another trap that a lot of organizations fall into - the desire to benchmark performance and attitudes relative to “similar” companies - sector competitors, other large companies based in the same country being popular targets. A real pitfall of benchmarking is the need to use common questions (or, even acommon research vendor) rather than to ask questions that are specific to an organization’s own reality and context. • Baselining is far more important - asking a given question before the organization or its communicators starts take action to address the issue being examined.  Good baselining and tracking allows the ability to measure the impact of your involvement over time - and also the impact of specific one-off interventions.

• Use different types of questions and measures • There are a lot of different data sources available to an enterprising communicator.  Aside from embedded analytics, one can use surveys to address different types of questions: open-ended questions (where participants are given limited guidance about answers), open-ended lists (where participants are asked to supply several different answers), closed-ended questions where participants select the “right” answer, and ranked lists which test alignment in direct way. 

• In some cases, it’s also possible to analyze enterprise search (or intranet search) terms and track what issues are of most concern to the organization at any given time. A mix of questions and measure types aligned to your measurement agenda can provide clear, sharp, and specific insights.

• One approach not to use: don’t ask people what they think they know • Earlier in my career, when I was working on organizational change programs with certain (nameless) large consultancies, I was stunned by the surveys they used.  They would ask questions like “Have you heard about the change?” and my personal favorite: “Do you understand the change?: • Aside from being non-specific about what “change” they were asking about, these questions asked participants to out themselves as ignorant, stupid or both. Don’t do this. Better to ask another type of question and see how close people are to the official explanation of what they are being asked about.

• Make words and numbers work together.

• It’s not true that only words make up stories. Numbers can be key to powerful stories as well. But words add power to numbers, and vice versa. 

• Numbers illustrate spread and bring trends to life. Words give that spread and those impacts context and flavor, and can bring some punch to a boardroom conversation. When numbers indicate broad agreement, words can highlight the intensity of that support, or of any lingering disagreement.  A mix of measures that bring words and numbers together can maximize the value of your measurement efforts.

Measurement is an activity that has tremendous potential to support internal communicators in delivering more effectively, and help them prove their value more convincingly to senior leadership and management. 

But to do that successfully, communication pros need to avoid the “measurement trap” that easily accessed data with limited relevance can set.   By following these five steps, IC pros can raise their game - and have the words and numbers at hand that demonstrate their impact.

If you want to navigate and find opportunities in the worlds of measurement, strategy, content or messaging in internal communication, let’s talk.  Schedule a conversation with Mike Klein.

Mike Klein

Internal communications pro with a bent towards increasing impact while reducing noise and friction. Former US political consultant, London Business School MBA. Tribal loyalties include IABC, EACD, Tottenham Hotspur FC and the Wisconsin Badgers.

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1 thought on “Five steps for avoiding the “Internal Communication measurement trap””

  1. There’s some very worthy thoughts here but how does this look in practice? I appreciate you might leave that detail for ‘the call’ you suggest at the end of this, but even just one or two examples would help with the understanding of the points you put forward.

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