One of the great gifts of my life is to have a best friend who is a therapist. She doles out perspective by the hour. Not too long ago she was bugging me about getting a manicure and pedicure before attending a friend’s wedding in California.
“I can’t afford it,” I said.
“It’s my gift,” she said.
“I don’t have time,” I said.
“First of all, you’ve spent the last month in your garden, and you could probably plant potatoes under those fingernails. On top of that, you just had the time to order seven different dresses, do a fashion show so we could decide which was right for the rehearsal dinner, and then return the others. So now you’re telling me you don’t have time to make sure your fingers and toes look as good as the rest of you?“
That’s the kind of perspective she delivers daily. If only there was a therapeutic equivalent for professional communicators…
Actually, there is: it’s called measurement.
Measurement is about time
One of the standard questions I ask almost everyone is: “What is your biggest measurement pain point?” The answer used to be “cost.” But the number of free and low-cost tools around these days combined with the absolute necessity to monitor media has mostly solved that problem.
Today, the most frequent response is “lack of time.” Either lack of time to sort through the data to find insights, or lack of time because it’s a low priority.
I totally understand why the average corporate communicator thinks they don’t have the time to measure. Their to-do lists are just as long, if not longer, than mine. But measurement actually provides the corporate equivalent of a best friend’s perspective.
Think about it.
Not everything on those to-do lists is of equal importance. And from time to time, you need to look at that list and re-prioritize how you’re spending your time. Generally, the definition of “important” depends too often on the rank of the person who assigned you the task. But, if you instead had data that showed the extent to which any given task will help move your organization toward its goals (and/or get you the promotion and bonus you deserve), then you’d be so much better at managing your priorities and your time.
And, contrary to popular opinion, putting a value on the impact and contribution of communications is imminently doable. It just takes some conversations, consensus, and common sense.
Saving time with the right data
We’ve written about how to do that here, here, and here. But here’s the short version: You aren’t trying to directly attribute that brilliant post or press release you just wrote to a $1 million order. You are quantifying where and how you have touched, influenced, and with luck, impacted your stakeholders and increased their awareness, consideration, or preference. Or perhaps you saved the company money or shortened the sales cycle. All of which translate into the value communications delivers to an organization.
With such data, you have the perspective to step back and not immediately jump on every project handed down by the powers that be. You can look at your data for similar projects you have done, rank them from best-performing to worst, and see where the latest one might fall.
If it’s something totally new and different, look at the performance of the last “new and different” project you took on and see how it performed relative to the goals.
These days, we are all more aware that time and talent are just as limited a resource as budget. So before you waste any of them, grab a bit of perspective, look at the metrics, and make better decisions. ∞