June 2014

Phil-MatisakOne Good Measure Deserves Another
Philip J. Matisak, ABC

As a long-time IABC member – over 30 years — I’ve reviewed and judged many Communications programs from IABC chapters from all over the continent, and reviewed and graded accreditation portfolios and exams. I’ve had the privilege of a unique view inside many fine organizations and learned much that I could apply to my own organization and career.

But, at times, I continue to be amazed by the number of communications projects that are produced with little thought about results – real impact on an organization’s or customer’s bottom-line results. Often times, a measure of success is simply whether a project was completed on time and/or within budget. While such projects may very well impact business results, without validation of that impact, we miss an opportunity to win continued support and utilization of our efforts. And, we miss the ability to critically analyze and improve the value we can bring to an organization and its success – and ours.

The most important measure of success, measures the impact of our efforts on business goals and objectives – the bottom line. After all, in these days of tight and diminishing budgets, many companies look critically at “nice to” versus “need to.” Without clear links to business results, communications programs are often first to be cut.

In successful organizations, communicators effectively and clearly link their efforts to an organization’s business plan through clear and concise measurement of how those efforts impact that plan’s goals and objectives – and communicate that link to decision makers. Effectively accomplished, they often become an indispensable member of the Business Planning Team; nothing is planned and implemented without understanding the communications element in any organizational initiative, without input from a communications professional.

The most successful communicators develop the habit of asking:

• What is the organizational objective here?
• What are the communications issues and challenges that will impact its success?
• What does success look like for the organization – for the communications plan?
• Can I confidently develop a plan that clearly articulates to leadership the rationale for my plan and the link to organizational goals/objectives?
• How can I measure the impact of my efforts on that success – opinion surveys, business results – such as, sales, service indices, productivity, employee/customer opinions – and, yes, on-time and on-budget deliverables?
• What is the timeline and cost of the communications effort? Can I articulate the value of expenditures of time and money to organization leadership?

Be prepared when proposing your plan to explain specifically how your efforts will improve the odds for success of a given initiative. Act like a business planning participant, if you want a “seat at the table.”

In supporting a mission statement, for example, what am I trying to accomplish here – is it creating a deliverable that displays the organization mission artistically, or is it helping employees understand the mission and win their commitment to it? Of course, it should be the latter, and your measurement plan should measure more than deliverable deadlines and budgets – it should measure how well employees know the mission, know how they impact it, and why they should care – measured by employee knowledge and commitment and reflected in business results.

If you can’t measure it, don’t propose it.

Want to learn more about measurement? Take advantage of your IABC membership….get involved…learn how others measure the impact of their work. Take advantage of the opportunity to participate in award programs – judge, compete.

Is it all just self-serving? All the award programs! Is it simply a bunch of folks patting themselves on the back? Some may appear so, but in the communications industry, it can be far more than an excuse for a party – although, party we do. What is the real value? Your peers can teach you a lot! One of the great values of your membership is networking with communicators across industries and causes – a unique opportunity, indeed. It’s not just about the creation of a pretty deliverable. Successful business communicators are different – it’s about impact to the bottom line – and a good measure of such.

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