Measuring = Paying Attention

Measuring = Paying Attention
September 28, 2023 Beth Nyland

Last week Jeff Herrington told me about a clever set of metrics he created to help businesspeople master the lessons he teaches in his writing workshops. His approach is so smart, I’ve been thinking about meaningful metrics ever since.

After Jeff coaches a group to create strong, action-oriented content, the client sends him periodic samples of the team’s work. Jeff scores the writing based on nine factors that make or break a written message. Think: simple language, white space, clear call to action, etc.

Not only is this measurement approach good business for Jeff (what a great way to stay connected with your customer), it’s delivering better results for his clients. Over time, those scores are climbing. Writers are improving their skills—and their content is getting better all the time.

Why? Because measuring means paying attention. And paying attention is how we discover opportunities for change.

Measurement is necessary for better business communication.

Today, I wholeheartedly believe this is true. But I didn’t always feel this way.

As a young communicator, I was downright indignant when a senior executive threatened our departmental budget unless we could show tangible evidence that our work was essential to the business.

“Just try to run this company without communicators,” I thought. “Who will announce your fabulous quarterly results to the press? Who will tell employees how to enroll in your 401k plan? Who will get your ad produced and placed for The Big Game?”

My junior brain was right, sort of. Communication is important work, and not just for those of us who do it for a living … everyone communicates at work.

But that senior executive was also right. We did need to measure the results of our communications. How else could we prove—to ourselves and those holding the purse strings—that we were doing our part to sustain and grow the business?

Mind you, this is practically ancient history. I’m old enough to remember sitting in conference rooms, scratching our heads about what on earth we could meaningfully measure. What would we count? Words? Column inches? Articles? Brochures? Emails?

These metrics would tell us how much content we were pumping out, but not how good it was. Or if it got noticed. Or if anyone took action because of it.

In business communication, quantity does not equal quality.

Evidently, enough communicators did enough head-scratching around enough conference tables, because today we have many ways to measure the effect of business communication:

  • Digital channels let us track clicks, opens, visits, logins, signups, likes, comments, shares, subscribes, and more.
  • Customer surveys and feedback forms tell us how people found their way to our products and services, and if their experience measured up to our claims.
  • Annual and pulse surveys track employee engagement. Communication is only one contributor to employee engagement scores, but a significant one.

Now, communicators are challenged to select and focus on the right metrics. Measure everything, and you’ll surely get lost in a swirl of second guessing. Instead, pay attention to a few meaningful outcomes—the changes and actions your communication is designed to achieve—so you can identify what’s working and feel motivated to adjust what’s not.

We can also think about measuring our own actions, to be sure we’re investing time and energy in work that takes us where we want to go.

So, Beth, what are YOU measuring these days?

As a professional communicator and small business owner, I monitor three metrics:

Dollars. Because I’m self-employed, money has to be my number-one metric. How much is in the bank? How much am I spending? How much is coming in? I do what I love, but I never lose sight of the fact that I’m in business to make money.

Consistency. I hold myself to a content marketing schedule. I’ve been publishing monthly articles like this one for more than a decade, without a miss. Recently, I added weekly posts to my schedule; you should be seeing at least one 1-minute video and one “cool find” post from me each week. This cadence keeps me visible (my LinkedIn analytics for impressions and engagement are increasing at exciting rates) and challenges me to continue learning and creating.

Conversations. This is a new metric for me, started just last week. At the end of each day, I take stock of the people I’ve met and the stories we’ve shared. What have I learned? Who have I helped and how? How much did we laugh? Where do we go from here? As a person who thrives on creative conversations and human connection, I’m excited to see how this metric energizes my business, strengthens my network, and contributes to my wellbeing.

These three measurements are enough for me. Though my busy brain is whirling now with other possibilities …

minutes saved by handling meetings efficiently
C.R.A.P. words eliminated from client messages
tabs closed because I finally read those articles
lunches eaten away from my desk
days when no chocolate is consumed

… this short list of priorities is focusing my attention on the results I’m striving to achieve.

What few meaningful metrics deserve your attention?

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