Looking forward to the IABC World Conference 2022? Check out this session preview from Catherine Fisette, who’s presenting “Challenging Communications Metrics — An Act of Humanistic Rebellion” on Wednesday, 29 June.
“At times, the solution to a maze is to reduce it to embers and walk straight through the ashes.” —Mary Doria Russell
When dealing with measurements, communicators often find themselves in a house of mirrors — a maze with multiple exiguous aisles and wall-to-wall mirrors meant to be deceiving. To get out, you have to look for built-in spaces that don’t reflect anything. If you’re not seeing your reflection, assuredly it means you can go through.
That’s how you make your way out. You can’t take mirrors’ reflection at face value. You have to create your own fitted measurement, whether you see your reflection in a mirror or not.
In our respective positions, we tend to select measurements based on the data we know, understand and can access readily. We take data points to evaluate ourselves against, at face value, without considering whether they might be flawed and distorted. What if we spun measurement on its head and, instead, determined what was worth measuring and created systems to collect the right data against it? The pandemic has created a formidable opportunity to do just this.
Let’s take a cursory look at a few generally accepted metrics. In internal communications, employee satisfaction surveys are a tried and true source of data on employee engagement. But according to research, if you subtract the one-fifth of employees who don’t take such surveys, and another one-fifth who don’t respond honestly because of concerns over anonymity, you’re left with, at best, two-thirds of a company’s population answering surveys truthfully. This is a slim sample to assess engagement and the quality of internal communications to generate and sustain it.
Outside of surveys, there is a host of other metrics worth considering. Yet 41% of internal communicators have no hard data they can use to prove their value. If these are not measured consistently by communicators across the board, what does it say about the industry baselines we benchmark ourselves against?
Let’s focus on compounded external communication metrics such as the number of views on social media and the engagement they yield. These measures are often seen as common gauges of content’s traction. But the average daily time spent on digital media is now close to eight hours. Knowing this, is your number of views as telling as it was pre-pandemic?
Now, onto the reliability of engagement. Five years ago, an experiment showed that 59% of social media users shared a piece without even reading it — this number has unlikely gone down drastically in today’s information-overload world. Is engagement indicative of real traction anymore, when considered alone?
Are our measurements representative or filled with flawed data we’re basing our reports and future plans on? The struggle is real to select relevant and meaningful metrics to position our mammoth work in the best light possible. That’s on top of the challenges most of us are contended with to track metrics, such as not having access to the right tools and platforms, having concerns over consequences of not meeting said targets and not having the time to devote to measurement.
That has to take a toll on our sense of empowerment, morale, drive to hit the ball out of the park and surge capacity for emerging trends that will require new — sophisticated — measurements and data. Perhaps it’s time we question whether these measurements and our struggles with them are at our service or us at theirs.
What if this created the impetus to smash the mirrors in the house as they are distorting our reality, creating self-imposed obstacles and preventing us from showcasing the breadth of the important work we do? There is still time to turn the tables. Find out more at World Conference 2022 in June.
Don’t miss IABC’s first international in-person conference in over two years! Gather with the IABC community and hear from Catherine and a slate of global communication professionals live in New York City. Register now to join IABC at the World Conference 2022, 26–29 June.
 Tell Me Lies – The Song One-Thing of Employees Now Hear, Rodd Wagner, Forbes, June 27, 2016
 Measuring Internal Communications in the Workplace, Chloe Austin, Contact Monkey, January 9, 2020
12 revealing Post-COVID Marketing Statistics (& How to Act on Them), Susie Marino and Kristen McCormick, WordStream, April 25, 2022
 6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says, Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, June 18, 2016
 12 Corporate communication metrics you should be tracking, Jessica Chambers, Papirfly, December 2019
Catherine Fisette, MA, ABC
Catherine Fisette, MA, ABC, graduated from Queen’s University with a master’s degree in international relations, is trilingual (French, English and Mandarin) and accredited from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). She has over 20 years of marketing and communications experience acquired in Montreal, Toronto, Beijing and Shanghai. Her knowledge of the pharma and aerospace sectors, strong skills in measurement, teamwork and expertise in strategic communications, B2B marketing and reputation management have been recognized.