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Measuring and benchmarking internal communications

 

Yesterday, I listened in on a webinar put together by Melcrum and Newsweaver titled, "Measuring and benchmarking internal communications." For the price (it was free), I'm glad I signed up.

Melcrum I'm very familiar with and was a former member in a past life, but Newsweaver was new to me. They are an email marketing company but also have an internal communications spin so it interested me. 

The webinar promised I would learn:

  • Methods to measure engagement.
  • How you can meet IC objectives with engaging & interactive communications.
  • Tips for creating timely, targeted and relevant communications.
  • How to improve the flow of information across organizations.

Measurement is one area where a lot of internal communicators struggle so any advice or tips on the topic are certainly welcomed by the industry. I did take some screen shots throughout the webinar and found some of the data quite interesting. 

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Melcrum Newsweaver webinar internal communications tools

I'm assuming some of this data came direct from Melcrum (thanks to the handy little logo on the left). It's no surprise that of the tools currently used Email ranks as numero uno. The almighty intranet came in second and leadership communication (face to face communication) rounded out the top 3. 

Of the tools communicators were planning to use, social networking and blogs were at the top. Again, no surprise, but it was disappointing to see video still so far down the list. I'm not quite sure why video isn't being used (now or in future plans) when it's so easy to do. 

The saddest part of all in this chart? That so many were stopping the use of newsletters. In my opinion, it's not because newsletters have become irrelevant. Oh no. It's because people have grown tired of doing them. 

____________________________________

Melcrum Newsweaver internal communication effectiveness

Now with this slide, I'm not questioning the data at all. I'm questioning the data source. I have yet to talk to an honest communicator would would claim that their intranet is the most effective part of their internal communication strategy.

I was with a Symon prospect in Baltimore just this week where the talk was around the ineffectiveness of their intranet and email communication. Funny enough, those rank #1 and #2 on this chart. This company is looking at touch screen digital signage to provide an interactive communication platform for all workers, those with and without computers. 

If this chart reflected time spent on communication vehicles, I bet it would look pretty similar. Time spent does not equal effectiveness. 

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aon hewitt icons

Now I thought this was a pretty cool idea. Aon Hewitt has an icon-based system for signaling to employees not just the urgency of the content but who the audience is for that content. The example shown looks to be on an intranet page.

But this same set of ideas could be applied to a printed newsletter (gasp!) or even a digital signage screen, touch or non-touch. It's a subtle way ot teeing up the content for the audience. You know if you see a red dot, it's important. Or if it's a green dot, no rush. I'd love to hear direct from an Aon Hewitt employee on how this works for them. 

If employees trust the level of prioritization, it could work across multiple platforms. 

______________________________________

The rest of the webinar went on to talk about the benefits of engaging design (big thumbs up), the value of surveys and polls, as well as storytelling (one of my personal favorites). All great topics. 

But "benchmarking" is another interesting area to discuss. Denise Cox, a lead consultant for Newsweaver, led the webinar and shared that internal emails have a 52% open rate. That's Newsweaver's "benchmark." In this case, that was the average across all of their clients as I understand it. 

Benchmarking is something that organizations have done for a long time for a lot of good reasons. But there are also some inherent dangers of benchmarking. By just trying to be as good as everybody else, are you really challenging how great your organization can be.

If you get a 52% open rate on your internal emails, is that good? If you compare it to the benchmark, it is. If you think that half of your company isn't reading the communication you're sending, that isn't good. So while benchmarking can be a part of measurement and comparison, don't let it hold your communications creativity at bay. 

/end rant

 

 

Comments

Great Blog Chuck :) I sometimes feel that as communicators we somewhat blindly follow the trends rather than finding out what really works. The point you raise is a good one - how do we define 'effective' - its not just about opening an email as communication is a two way process so we need to ensure that the message is received and understood. Hurrah for the newsletter as well as many people still read hard copy newspapers - why? Because they contain great content and topics that people are interested in. So for me, the most important element of communication is the content, if its good enough people will read it however its delivered.
Posted @ Friday, January 25, 2013 3:29 AM by Bernadette
Hi Chuck, thank you for attending the webinar, and for taking the time to write up your take on it... It was really interesting to read. Glad you liked that AON Hewitt idea - it was a good one, and I thank them for letting me share it on the webinar..  
 
I want to mention on the topic of benchmark stats that those benchmarks of opens and clicks I mentioned (52% open and 21% click), are aggregated stat of all our Newsweaver Internal Communications customers. It is recaculated every couple of months, so it is a fresh stat for our customers.  
 
As you noted, itt is only one area to benchmark. I would also suggest the engagement metric of 'read rate'. Meaning, how many issues did an employee read out of, say, the last 3 issues? That gives a good overview gauge. Most won't have read every single issue, and a 'read rate' takes this into account (eg they were away from desk, on leave, etc.).
Posted @ Friday, January 25, 2013 6:33 AM by denise cox
Thanks Denise for adding additional context. I look forward to more content from you and Melcrum.
Posted @ Friday, January 25, 2013 9:38 AM by Chuck Gose
Hi, thanks so much for posting your thoughts & reaction to the measurement webinar; a handy Google alert sent me your way. I too, think it's interesting that the breakdown for overall most effective channels is Intranet, Email, Face to Face (Leader, Mgr, Team). Just a bit surprised, I was equally under the impression that most Intranets weren't turning heads on the red carpet yet (although this case from PwC shows that perhaps, they might be on their way). I had long thought that questions of the sort shown on the graph above, looking at channels, could be somewhat insightful, but could also be difficult to interpret just because there are so many intersections between channels these days. One employee taking the survey might click "Email" because she finds the CEO's email messages informative — while at the very same time having an Outlook rule for Corporate Comms' email newsletter to "Delete Without Reading." (How sad!) Unfortunately, if she doesn't check "Leadership Communications" because she thinks her intention was reflected in her "Email" check, her key decision process — that it was the deliverer of the message that proved so key to capturing her attention — might be lost on the poor Corporate Comms office that's trying to understand how to baseline and improve its communication strategy. 
 
So, thinking about this conundrum, I tried to design a question about usefulness of channels that might shed a little more light onto both of those factors. I set it up a bit like a matrix, pairing the categories "who (deliverer) + how (live/in-person or online)" for each answer choice. 
 
That way, we could get a bit more insight into a complicated question — perceived usefulness (increase awareness or understanding of ____ topic) of messages delivered by a person/entity, through a certain channel! For example, the answer choices went something like "Senior Leader + Online (Leadership Email Message)" -- "Senior Leader + Live/In-Person (Brown Bag, Town Hall)" -- "Corporate + Online (Weekly Events Newsletter)" -- "Peer + Live/In-Person (Water Cooler Chat)". Employees could select all which they found most useful; when I set the results up in a heatmap (those selected more often shaded more green, less often more red), they were not entirely surprising, but offered much more granular insights about "who and how" worked for communicating that topic, and thus where we should specifically reach out — and of course the data to back it up when sharing with senior stakeholders. Because as you noted, "Time spent does not equal effectiveness!" — only your audiences can determine whether your particular posture is effective. 
 
But of course, in order to determine that, you have to know what communication goals you're working toward in the first place, and that's going to depend on the clarity of thought among the leadership, how defined the strategy is for the way ahead (actions that need to be taken) and how prepped the organization is to take on those actions. Perhaps, to your point about benchmarking, communications baselining in one's own organization is necessary and gives the communicator a place to start from (and to strive for fitting goals based on where his organization stands) but the benchmark might still prove useful — if not as a goal, but just a "Current General Reality" to leaders that might be disheartened by their own organization's baseline and unsure of the value of continued effort. ("Well, at least it's not just my organization where people only open half their emails.") 
 
Speaking of prioritization, the icons "legend" is brilliant! You're right, I think if used consistently, it could really add to trust and overall improvement in information-sharing. If applied well, the technique could serve to build employee understanding that not only is leadership/communications aware of constraints on their time — but goes beyond paying lip service to those pressures, instead taking deliberate (if uncomplicated) action to prioritize information for their benefit.  
 
Apologies for such a long comment! I appreciated your thoughts on the relative effectiveness of channels and it's something I've thought about a bit, so reading your comments on that channels bar chart just spurred me to some more thought on it. Thank you again for taking the time to post your review of the webinar — sharing that prioritization icons idea alone made the post worth the price of reading, great tip. Hope to attend if Melcrum holds another one soon!
Posted @ Monday, January 28, 2013 6:53 AM by Shawna Kelly
Where can I find IC benchmarks across the various channels, including probably less measurable/mentioned ones like meetings, calendars, events take-up, surveys, podcasts, webinars etc.
Posted @ Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:06 AM by Victoria C
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