How & why to evaluate invisible value


As I’ve often blogged about before, there’s nothing more important to your communications career than using evaluation to demonstrate the value you bring to your organization. Yet one of the most frustrating things about being a communicator is that some of the areas in which we add the most value are often invisible. They’re the kinds of activities that tend to fly beneath the radar of management—and even when their existence is made explicit, they can’t always easily be captured in hard numbers.

Nonetheless, it’s vital that you include these activities in your evaluation in order to capture a full perspective on what you do and where you succeed.

Here are three areas of invisible value you may want to include in evaluating your performance:

  1. Risk avoidance: If you’re in the business of avoiding train wrecks, is the value of this result clear to your organization? It may be that the single most strategically valuable thing you did all year was to avoid a colossal screw-up. When your savvy planning helps divert a crisis or manage an issue that could have caused reputational risk, that information belongs in your evaluation report. For example, if you receive 20 media calls about a nasty rumour and you’re able to make 18 of them go away, that’s vital to the story of your media relations performance. Don’t just report on the two bad stories; document those 18 saves as well.
  2. Coaching and issue management: Even though your internal clients and executives probably value these activities the most, they’re likely not captured anywhere in formal reporting. Think about including these kinds of activities in evaluating your work (perhaps by conducting an internal client satisfaction survey and then sharing the results).
  3. Messaging: If your messages are used effectively across your organization—or even better, among some of your partners or stakeholders—make sure you track that success and report it. This can be done either through content analysis or by documenting your partners’ use of your material as a relationship indicator. It doesn’t matter much what category you use; the essential point is that you capture and communicate your results.

It’s important to resist falling into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to count. Sure, it’s familiar and quick to count media clips and web hits, and to present these as evidence of your contributions – but they barely begin to tell the full picture of your performance. But your career will be immensely helped by taking the time to show the value of your ‘invisible’ activities, and to let them win you the full respect they merit.

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