Note: This piece originally appeared as a free article in the December edition of The Measurement Advisor newsletter.

annual-reporting compass

Oh, The Paine of Measurement—

For years I’ve noticed that I get a significant increase in requests for metrics during the last two months of the year. Just as I sit here writing “the year-end wrap up issue” of our newsletter, communications professionals around the world are seeking a way to sum up their own 2015 efforts into a nice neat package complete with silver bow and gold stars.

While I don’t deny the appeal of a nice report saying what a wonderful job communications/PR/social media has done, I would argue that it is at best useless and at worst dangerous.

Imagine if the only time you even thought about your family’s health was at the end of the year. That, no matter what ached and when, you waited to the end of the year to find out why. Most of us dutifully go in for an annual checkup (although even the value of that is being debated) whether we need it or not.

I’m lucky enough to have a sophisticated patient portal through which I correspond with my doctors’ office, updating them with my latest blood pressure readings, making appointments, and getting prescriptions refilled. When I have a problem I have a great nurse practitioner to interpret my test results and make recommendations. But regardless of how you get your healthcare these days, during the course of the year we all take temperatures, get tested for various ailments, check our blood pressure, talk to a nurse practitioner about our medications, and in dozens of other ways measure our health. Never mind sporting a Fitbit or iWatch to further measure our every move.

Not to belabor the metaphor, but I don’t think you’ll get much argument these days that external communications impacts reputation, revenue, and ultimate success. The point is that in any organization good communications is key to corporate health.

So what I don’t understand are people who wear a device to track their health every instant, yet only measure how effectively they are communicating once a year. If you find regular check-ins and checkups useful, then why wouldn’t you want the same for your efforts at work?

The brands we know to have excellent reputations, like Southwest Airlines and PBS, all incorporate regular and frequent reporting into their communications practices. In addition to real-time monitoring they report on employee attitude, customer perceptions, and media on a regular basis, and they use online tools for checkups whenever needed.

While many still conduct an annual or bi-annual employee survey, the truly excellent communications companies are replacing or supplementing them with quarterly pulse checks. For external communications the trend is the same, with monthly (or even weekly) checkups rather than waiting for the end of the year to show progress.

Today’s modern communications dashboards are the equivalent of a patient portal, where you can keep track of your external and internal communications results daily or weekly. And, if you’re lucky enough to have one, your Measurement Sherpa is the equivalent of your nurse practitioner, a valuable diagnostician who can help you interpret your results and keep you on track to a healthy reputation. (P.S. we have a special tutorial about how to become a Measurement Sherpa. Check it out!)

So dump that big expensive annual report, and get your metrics when you need them. That way you always have the data on hand to make healthier decisions. ∞

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