7 Ways to Build Your Organization’s Communications Measurement Culture

You want more insight from your data? Many heads are better than one, so put more minds to work by creating a culture of measurement. How do you make measurement and evaluation  part of your organization’s DNA?

The short answer is that you monitor, model, and incentivize the use of measurement, with behavior promoted by example from the top. The long answer? Here it is, in seven steps. Oh, wait, first, let’s review…

What is a measurement culture?

A measurement culture begins with data informed decision-making, and then moves beyond it to embrace the larger process of learning to improve. Data is the tool; measurement is a the process of using data to make better decisions and improve your work and the organization.

A measurement culture connects communications activity to organizational objectives by way of a cycle of evaluation and improvement. This includes planning, data collection, analysis, and adjustment—and then going back around to do it again, over, and over, learning to improve each time.

7 Steps to Build Your Organization’s Communications Measurement Culture

1. Measurement starts at the top

A measurement culture cannot flourish without leaders who respect data and the process of learning from it. They must use it themselves, and encourage its use throughout their organizations. The c-suite must show by example and a system of rewards that data-informed decisions are the basis of the company culture.

Moreover, an organization must take care to measure its own success in ways that encourage the culture it wishes to promote. “You become what you measure,” so a measurement culture must measure itself. A best practice is to develop a system to track the use of measurement, and then recognize and reward those who use it.

2. Reward and incentivize good measurement  

Most employees are routinely provided with personal goals and regular performance reviews to ensure they meet their goals. Then they get a bonus or a raise or a promotion if they achieve them. Good metrics need to be built into those plans. A data-informed manager is going to be more effective than one who is not, and theoretically should make more money. For a measurement culture to thrive such rewards must be commonplace and widely known.

3. Measurement culture is collaborative

Typical measurement projects require cooperation between employees with skills in many different areas. The required data for accurate metrics may come from sales, finance, accounting, operations, HR, or other departments. To properly take advantage of technology and data, you need a culture that encourages collaborative learning and improvement.

So mix it up. Meet regularly with teams outside of PR or communications to learn how other groups use measurement. Encourage collaboration and the sharing of experiences. Devise techniques so that people of different data proficiencies can interact and share ideas. Put their offices next door to each other, or whatever the Zoom equivalent is. Organize “lunch and learn” events to teach your team how others measure results. 

4. Free the data

A measurement culture needs free-flowing data. A decade ago, data was controlled by a privileged few. Today it is easily sharable, so share it. Decide what data should be available to employees, and then give them access to it, the tools to use it, and inspire them to use it. This can be difficult for big organizations, which often have several sources of incompatible measurement data and several different departments, each jealous of their own turf. So, work to tear down those silos and simplify your data sources—or at least make them compatible. Ideally, implement a data and analytics environment so that all your employees can access data, visualize trends, and develop actionable intelligence.

5. Love the data; let it change your mind

Trust the science and the data. A measurement culture promotes a willingness to change one’s thinking in the face of evidence, to learn from data-informed experience. Johna Burke, CEO of AMEC, says, “The most prized skill for any comms professional is critical thinking. Real value comes when you challenge the status quo, when you don’t accept traditional wisdom. Question everything—interrogate data with a fresh eye. Don’t just accept things that are handed to you.”

6. If they don’t know metrics, teach them

We know, most comms pros didn’t get that way because of their love of math. But regardless of their level of math skills they can have an attitude that embraces learning with data, and the use of empirical evidence to inform decisions. So, offer employee training in bite-sized bits. Encourage (and pay for) courses that help employees understand and use data and measurement. When you make your next hire, make knowledge of Excel pivot tables and Google analytics a requirement.

7. Recognize and celebrate the learning value of failure

Employees need to understand that mistakes and “failures” are not just normal, but a vital part of learning and improvement. Learning from failure is a big part of using measurement to improve your programs.

Set up a program with appropriate metrics to reward the “Flop of the Month.” Katie Paine, now publisher of The Measurement Advisor and once owner of a 30-employee measurement firm, used to give the employee who made the most valuable mistake each month the primo parking spot. And no, it did not encourage people to make more flops. Rather it brought mistakes into the open so they could be learned from, and programs improved.

When you look at your results, you probably already know about the successes. Instead, highlight the worst performing activities and figure out what went wrong and how things might have gone better. Develop techniques to make admitting failure a career-enhancing move. ∞

Thanks for the image up top to Marvin Meyer on Unsplash.

About Author

Bill Paarlberg

Bill Paarlberg is the Editor of The Measurement Advisor. He has been editing and writing about measurement for over 20 years. He was the development and copy editor for "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, winner of the 2013 Terry McAdam Book Award.