Cindy Crescenzo is the queen of measurement — and she’s using her powers for good to help communicators unpack and demystify it piece by piece.
For Crescenzo, measurement is something she gladly “geeks out” in. She’s the co-owner of Crescenzo Communications with her husband and business partner Steve Crescenzo. Over the years, she’s guided clients to delve into what really resonates with their employees by taking a hard look at quantitative (and qualitative) data, and forming a sound strategy from there.
But she understands that some communicators prefer to engage in creativity and storytelling, and taking a hard look at numbers can be like going to the dentist: you don’t want to do it, but you know it’s good for you.
“I've always been a big believer in keeping it simple,” she says, explaining that measurement boils down to understanding what does and doesn’t work for your audiences. Once you can nail that down, she says, you’ll see how you’re contributing to the culture and value of the organization. Measurement, in fact, can open leaders’ eyes to the power of good communications.
So it’s important to start from the beginning. When it comes to understanding measurement, one of the biggest pitfalls Crescenzo sees is leaving it as an afterthought. “We get so excited, because the fun part is creating the content,” she says. “We even get a little lazy, because there are so many tools at our disposal. Today, a gazillion things will give you metrics and we look at those and call it measurement. But that’s not measurement — those are metrics.”
If your organization is putting time and money toward a communications effort, it’s worthwhile to identify what success looks like from the onset. This type of planning, Crescenzo says, “really helps you identify what you’re trying to accomplish. Whatever that answer is, it will shed light as to the best ways to measure going forward.”
The good news is that a solid measurement plan is achievable with time and practice. “I've seen it at industry conferences, these unbelievable case studies. And you’ll think, ‘Oh, God, I'm so far away from that,’ or ‘I don't have an IT team that can help me build visualizations.’ And that's OK. There are so many things you can do with baby steps that will build your measurement program and give you insights to what works and what doesn't,” Crescenzo says.
“It’s not something that you can just flip on like a switch,” she says, encouraging communicators to start by listening. Pulse surveys and quick employee focus groups after town halls are two easy-to-achieve options.
Crescenzo also encourages communicators to go beyond open rates and clicks in their dashboards and shift to understanding behavior. “Once they open that email, do they understand it? Do they know what to do? How did we influence behavior?” she asks.
For communicators looking to be strategic partners, this mindset is key. A CEO doesn’t care if people got an email through desktop or mobile, Crescenzo explains, they want to know how it influences behavior that will make the company succeed.
To get to this level, it can take walking a mile in your audience’s shoes — sometimes literally. Crescenzo recalls conducting an audit for an energy company in Canada, and their communications professional joined her. This individual worked diligently to create quarterly posters to hang in the workspace. On paper, it was a perfect plan.
After taking two planes and a bus to get to the oil rig, however, Crescenzo and the communicator found themselves in a remote location, surrounded only by trailers. Not a single poster was hung up.
“When we got there, it was such a disconnect and unrealistic to think they would put up posters in these trailers and switch them out every quarter,” Crescenzo recalls. “A lot of measurement is about getting yourself out there and taking in the environment, talking to the people, and really understanding what their day looks like.”
The idea of using listening as a means for successful measurement comes full circle with the concept that communicators enjoy engaging with their creativity and storytelling skills. Measurement is much more than numbers, and Crescenzo has found that when communicators become less intimidated by the process, they can really thrive off it. She’s been told by professionals in the field that gaining this audience feedback not only helps them determine what works well, but ultimately feeds in to their editorial plans and larger strategic goals.
If communicators learn just one thing about measurement, Crescenzo hopes it’s this: “I think people are afraid that measurement will highlight what fails — and sure, you're going to learn that some things you’ve done for a long time and have spent a lot of money on aren't working,” she says. “But that isn't failing. What is failing is continuing to do those things, even though they're not working.”
Tools and Resources to Make Measurement Easier
When it comes to the best tools to use for measurement, Cindy Crescenzo’s go-to is anything that makes the task easier: Excel to O365, Survey Monkey and more. And she can’t overstate the importance of Excel, citing it as a simple resource that holds a lot of power in helping communicators chart their data and use other built-in tools.
Once you have your data organized, the next step is making it come to life. “Visualization is probably the key to modern communication measurements. Just as we create content and tell stories as communicators, we need to think about our data that same way,” Crescenzo says. She cites Canva as a favorite — a free design tool that can help create those visual stories and pull out the a-ha moments that matter most.
Featuring Cindy Crescenzo
Cindy Crescenzo is the president of Crescenzo Communications and brings over 15 years of experience to the communications industry. Cindy specializes in research, measurement and strategic planning. Her passion for numbers and audience research have helped thousands of communicators all over the world transform their roles in their organizations by teaching them how to get the ammunition they need to build successful communication strategies that deliver results. In addition to speaking at numerous conferences throughout the year, she and her business partner and husband, Steve Crescenzo, co-present their often sold-out workshop, Internal Communications Master Class. Cindy has worked with hundreds of communicators around the world, including 3M, Bayer, Bob Evans, Boston Medical Center, Carlson Wagonlit, CGI Technologies, Discover, John Deere, La-Z-Boy, Novartis, Roche, Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins, Target and Wells Fargo. Interested in a customized measurement strategy or communication audit? Contact Cindy for a free 15-minute consultation.