Do you feel that it’s difficult to explain—and take credit for—the contribution that your communications efforts make to the overall success of your organization? Sometimes it’s hard for communicators to take credit for big picture outcomes such as the number of new members recruited, rate of client satisfaction, revenue, or influence leading to a regulatory change. It’s one thing to say that communications exists to serve overall corporate functioning—but how can responsibility for major organizational successes be directly ascribed to the communications team? Isn’t it better to stick to performance indicators that clearly belong in the communications “column”?
My own take on this question is an emphatic no.
You shouldn’t hesitate to include in your results column performance indicators that are ultimately corporate or project outcomes, because these are your raison d’être. The merging of communications and corporate outcomes is precisely what is targeted in strategic communications. There’s no need to hold up scientific precision as a standard for attributing causality; it’s enough to show directional alignment of communications efforts to other ones that collectively achieve a corporate goal.
For example, one of your organization’s main goals during the period of your communications plan may be to boost membership recruitment rates. Effective communication may well be central to achieving that goal, but its contribution can’t in practice be isolated from the influence of other factors (i.e. membership cost, market environments or member offerings). And that’s nothing to worry about. No one can be certain about the degree to which communications made an impact in relation to those other factors, but everyone can agree that it contributes to the success.
So get comfortable with living with some uncertainty. Design your communications strategy evaluation to include the highest-level corporate outcomes, and take credit where credit is due.