Why there is no one-size-fits-all approach for communications metrics

Three Social Media Measurement Solutions

Measurement Solutions for Advocacy Organizations

If there’s one question we get asked often, it’s “Am I doing this right?”

The “this” in question is digital communications measurement. Every organization struggles to find accurate and meaningful data to demonstrate communications effectiveness, and the many platforms that have promised to make it easier have only muddied the waters. Do clicks matter more than shares? What about followers?

To answer these questions, National Journal invited panelists with experience in communications measurement to share their advice on developing metrics. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, here are three guidelines for creating an effective measurement plan.

1) Measure variables you can control

Jean Shaw, Senior Vice President & Partner of Research and Insights at FleishmanHillard, recommends organizations approach all measurement by asking two questions:

What are we trying to achieve? And what can our communications impact?

Shaw gives the example of a campaign to reduce drunk driving. If the number of drunk drivers declined during the campaign, did the organization have an impact? It’s difficult to know without gathering data from other sources, for example, bad weather might have discouraged driving or police may have made fewer arrests. By measuring variables you can control, you can more accurately define your impact.

The best place to begin is with your campaign’s messaging. If you’re trying to reach policy leaders, Shaw says to see if your campaign’s language appears in mainstream media or in leaders’ talking points. If the message is directed at the public, try surveying key sectors to learn whether they have seen campaign materials and if so, where.

Once an organization has established this type of messaging criteria, it’s possible to set standards for success by answering questions like:

  • Did our message reach intended audiences?
  • What percentage of our target audience segment was reached?
  • Which messages were most memorable?

Recommended tools:

Google Consumer Surveys for surveying targeted consumer audiences; Survey Monkey, Facebook surveys or Twitter polls for easy, low-cost outreach

2) Report efficiently

For measurement data to be meaningful, organizations also have to report results in a timely manner.

Panelists recommend establishing a routine for documenting key metrics, such as adding daily, weekly or monthly updates to a shared spreadsheet. Your team can then respond quickly if a campaign strategy needs to be modified.

If you’re working online, Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Rev, recommends using your analytics platform to automate report sends. She emails results to key staff weekly or monthly. “That’s a nice way to just keep everybody in the loop without having to do an official report every time for every individual person,” she says.

Recommended tools:

Google Analytics Dashboards can be customized and shared via email. Platforms like Hootsuite and Sprout Social offer customizable reports for social media.

3) Make reports relevant and actionable

From National Journal Leadership Council’s Performance Indexing case study on Feeding America as the organization worked to measure government affairs performance.

When you’re sharing a report outside of the communications team, keep it simple. Focus on the goals, interests and knowledge-level of recipients.

“Every report I write or that a junior analyst writes, I say, ‘What are the three things that the client needs to know?’” Shaw says.

Amy Labenski, Senior Director of Impact and Engagement at WETA National, says the right person to create reports is often a data storyteller, someone who can connect the dots between numbers and outcomes.

From Left, Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Rev; Jean Shaw, Senior Vice President & Partner of Research and Insights at FleishmanHillard; Amy Labenski, Senior Director of Impact and Engagement at WETA National

She imagines a scenario where 75 percent of users leave a page after reading a three minute article. If you report the numbers to leadership without providing any context, they might look at the high bounce rate and short read-time and determine that communications were a failure. An effective report would focus on the three minute read and whether it brought the organization closer or farther from communications goals. The reporter would then make recommendations for next steps.

Labenski says that even if the outcomes are negative, a report should focus on lessons for the future rather than failure. “It’s not always good metrics,” she says, “…You have to figure out how to talk about ‘we didn’t get there but this is what we did, so what are we going to do differently next time?’”

Recommended tools:

If your organization is seeking data for benchmarking, Alexa‘s Competitive Intelligence tool is useful for gauging your organization’s reach compared to others. “Alexa will tell you a little bit more about web traffic for your competitors. You can plug in the name of the other organization and see some of their very high-level web metrics,” says Labenski.

On Twitter, FollowerWonk performs a similar service. Organizations can compare their social activity to that of others on Twitter. Users can also segment followers according to their Twitter habits to optimize engagement with them.


Related Resources for NJ Leadership Council Members:

Actionable Research
  • Annual Executive Briefing: Join National Journal Communications Council on September 15 as we reveal the in­sights from 2016 Wash­ing­ton in the In­form­a­tion Age. This updated version of our annual survey contains new insights on preferred media brands, election year trends and more.
  • Playbook: Visual Strategy in the Information Age, designed to help Members conquer the challenges of translating complex messages into visuals that deliver value, and managing the internal processes and costs of implementing these strategies.
  • Executive Briefing: Performance Indexing, designed to help Members reach goals by identifying performance gaps and crafting targeted action plans in response, as well as create a framework for com­mu­nic­at­ing departmental performance to key stakeholders.
Service Requests
  • On-Demand Data and Charts: Members can access an archive of public policy data and charts. Requests for data research and chart creation are included in the membership, via our Data Czar Service.
  • Editable PowerPoint Slides: National Journal’s Presentation Center produces 10,000+ editable white-label slides per year, covering various public policy and political topics with visuals and data.

Interested in learning more? Contact David Hirsch, Executive Director, Business Development, at dhirsch@nationaljournal.com.