It’s Getting Harder to Hide

Although there’s a group of business-savvy communication practitioners out there who understand the importance of adding value, there’s a huge contingent of practitioners who hang on to the traditional communication role—that of in-house reporters of news and information—all at a cost to the business.

Why do they hang on to old ways? Some don’t know there’s a new way. Those who do know may not have the competencies to make the change. Some find comfort in hanging on when no one is pressuring them to get with it.

I’ve had a couple of back-to-back webinar weeks recently about this very subject.

One was focused on internal/external communication integration and the other addressed the changing role of internal communication—from an activity-based cost center to a results-based value creator. Both had components focused on measurement.

Yes, communication breakdowns do cause under-performance. Yes, eliminating those breakdowns can create gains in quality, service, cost, safety, productivity or many other business-related measures.

That’s why Carla Kath, a superstar at Staffbase who sells employee apps designed to improve communication, hosted a webinar to help people understand the results and value-driving role they could assume. Here’s the link to our webinar replay.

That’s also why Kiewit VP of Communication and former client Bob Kula, joined me on an IABC Heritage Region webinar about what to measure and what not to measure. The fact is that many communication people measure things that have little to nothing to do with the business. And some of their bosses are getting mighty fed up.

Here’s what one senior vice president told me in an interview about his communication department. “Our communication people are worried about the wrong things. I tell them about a business problem I’m having and they trot out the same activities. They worry about click-throughs, opens, mentions, share of voice, awareness and retweets. I’m worried about sales and gross margin. Where can I find communication people who can help us improve our business?”

There are two shifts communication leaders need to make.

  1.  Manage Communication as an Integrated System                                            Communication represents all the ways we send, receive and process information. It’s the things we say and the things we don’t say. It’s what we do and what we don’t do.
    It includes what leaders say and do. It includes systems and processes that communicate what’s important and by what is measured, rewarded and recognized. Work processes, technology, learning and development and the environment communicate in various different ways. We’re bombarded daily by thousands of signs, signals, cues and messages that tell us what’s important and what’s not. We factor in the sum total of all the messages we get in a day and then we act.
    • Information drives our decisions.
    • Our decisions drive our actions.
    • Our actions drive the results we create.
    The communication system needs to be managed as an integrated system, not as a collection of formal channels that might or might not come together to drive the right results.
  2. Measure What Matters
    Traditional communication functions measure the number of tweets, retweets, page views, campaign effectiveness, content consumption, readability and channel usage, to name a few.
    None of these reflect the state of our businesses. None of them matter to shareholders, customers or business leaders. Adopting these traditional measures disconnects internal communication from the business. This is why the respondents in a recent survey said that communication people often have the wrong priorities.
    Communication functions should focus on measuring and improving business measures that are included in the strategic plan and the organization’s goals. These include customer net promoter scores, customer retention rate, revenues, cycle time, gross margin, operating income, order fulfillment, quality, service delivery, cost, scrap, re-work, yield loss and productivity.
    Identifying and tracking the right measures enables internal communication people to identify where communication breakdowns cause under-performance, surface root causes of the under-performance, eliminate the root causes and improve results. And if the gain is more than the cost to create that gain, you will have added value.

Key Takeaway: The communication discipline needs to create measurable results and add value. Others have proven it’s doable. It’s getting increasingly difficult to hide from this business reality.

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