The X Y Chart of Strategic Communications Performance

In considering how to improve the strategic performance and value of your communications function, it’s useful to have a framework to understand your current positioning and identify practical directions for enhancements.

This X Y chart provides a simple model for assessing where you are, and where you want to go.

It works like this:

  • The “X” axis tracks the level of engagement in your communications model. Starting from a traditional one-direction “tell and sell” model and ranging to a more progressive “involve and co-create” approach to communication. Think about the difference between a government organization issuing a passive message (e.g. “you have a right and a responsibility to vote”) to a much more engaged model of getting citizens to get involved and share ideas and experiences (e.g. “tell us your voting story”). The first problem of communication is getting the audience’s attention – as such, best practice is to focus on active involvement and engagement in order to make a connection.
  • The “Y” axis assesses the positioning of the communications function. At the bottom is the all-too familiar situation of having a highly reactive communications team with a fragmented role. For example, this would be a team working without a communications plan or clear objectives, in which there is no logical link between, say, the communicators working on internal communications, and the website, or your monthly journal. At the top is the optimal model of a highly strategic, integrated communications function – a team guided by a strong communications strategy, a clear sense of objectives and performance metrics, and a creative, integrated approach to tactics (e.g. connecting internal and external communications, exploring synergies between digital and off-line channels).

Where does your communications team fit on this Strategic Communications Performance chart? More importantly, what steps can you take to inch your way toward the top right quadrant of best practices?