By Mike Klein on August 11, 2022
4 minute read
It’s Simpler Than You Think

One of the biggest challenges facing communication professionals as a species, and particularly, internal communicators, is a basic discomfort with measurement.  It’s a particular problem given that measurement and data actually offer the pathway to being taken seriously by business decision-makers and C-suite leaders.  

But it’s not surprising when many job postings for IC demand self-sufficient graphic design skills but few mention measurement or research experience.  

It presents a real credibility problem when many IC pros are unable to look beyond whatever embedded analytic tools they may have access to - and solely base their measurement approach on such readings as “click rates” and “open rates,” rather than measures that are actually aligned to business performance. 

There’s nothing wrong with using embedded analytic tools. The problem emerges when the embedded measures are presented as important without being connected with what the organization is actually trying to achieve.   

It’s like measuring the progress of an airplane using the speedometer, but without looking at the fuel gauge, the direction, the altitude and above all, the actual destination.  

Start By Assessing The Actual Gaps 

The most important thing to do - if you can get permission - is to ask the two questions which can yield the most complete picture of an organization’s situation in the simplest possible way: 

  • What are the three biggest priorities facing your organization? 
  • What are the three most important things you are working on at the moment in your job? 

The power of these questions is not in the number of responses but in the richness of the open responses.   

Because participants aren’t being guided towards specific answers, it becomes possible to analyze both what’s said and what’s not said. The ways in which things are said also become crucial findings that can be shared powerfully with senior management.   

By counting and categorizing the words that are used, words can thus be transformed into strikingly powerful numbers. 

Putting Do-Know-Feel-Say At The Heart Of Your Measurement Approach 

Once you’ve used the “Two Questions” to assess your messaging gap, the effort moves to what needs to be done to close that gap, and how to measure the extent to which communication can demonstrate its impact on closing that gap. 

Fortunately, there is an all-purpose approach that anyone could use to drive this analysis - as it can be used for driving the strategy for addressing it. 

It’s called Do-Know-Feel-Say.  

From a research perspective, here’s how Do-Know-Feel-Say lines up:


Overall question:  
What are people supposed to do? 

Measurement examples: 
What are people doing? 
How many people are doing this? 
How much has the number changed in the last X days? 


Overall question: 
What are people supposed to know? 

Measurement examples: 
How many people can identify the correct top company priorities? 
Do people use correct terminology to describe them? 


Overall question: 
Do we have support? 

Measurement examples: 
How do people rank the importance of the company’s priorities? 
When people use their own words to describe company priorities, are they positive or hostile? 


Overall question: 
What, if anything, are people saying? 

Measurement examples: 
What do people say when asked open-ended questions? 
What do people say they’ve been hearing from others?

How Do You Make All This Fit Together? 

Before you put all these measures together, it’s critical that you, as a communication leader, define the story you want the measures to tell - what I call the “measurement narrative” and what others may call the “data story.” 

As a communication leader, you need to focus this measurement narrative on those things which communication can impact: what people do, what they know, how they feel, and what they say - and the extent those things can influence the objective you are supporting.  

Then, you use or develop measures that can illustrate the relationship between those objectives and your influence. 

Say, for instance, if your objective is to influence something tangible - say the daily use of hand sanitizer in your offices.  

Your main focus is on monitoring the use of hand sanitizer, and tracking whether there are any changes in sanitizer use in relation to the communication activity that promotes the use of hand sanitizer. 

The story is not one of: “do people use hand sanitizer” but “how has internal communication influenced the increase in hand sanitizer use and why it’s a good investment.” 

Baselining Beats Benchmarking 

Making this kind of story work requires baselining rather than benchmarking. 

There’s an obsession in the business world about “benchmarking” - trying to compare how we are doing against performance on similar measures by other organizations, usually those we compete against or admire  

But benchmarked comparisons are often difficult or even contrived, when you factor in differences as basic as location and compensation and deeper issues like corporate and national culture, workplace strategy and the mechanical and logistical differences between the businesses. 

Baselining, which is the process of tracking the impact of changes in activity on the organization itself, suffers no such ambiguities.   

Baselining gives you the ability to measure progress over time. It also allows you to pinpoint the relationship between specific communication activities and the actions and opinions being monitored, producing data that will bring the narrative of your impact to life. 

Baselining is not to be confused with benchmarking. 

Where Do Embedded Analytics Fall In To All This? 

Once you’ve done the work and the thinking about which Do-Know-Feel-Say outcomes you are out to achieve, looking at the embedded analytics to assess the impact of specific interventions makes far more sense than using those analytics outside of an outcome-driven context. 

If you are using your comms platform or intranet as a main platform for driving messaging to encourage behavior change, things like click rates, open rates and time spent on the page can offer a highly effective early warning system to determine whether additional efforts will be required to get specific desired results.  

More interestingly, your embedded analytics can give you insights into the quality of your readership.  When the embedded analytics numbers are low but participation in the actual outcome is high, you are actually making a case that your readers are influential and drive behavior through word-of-mouth. 

Why Can Measurement Become Your Most Powerful Strategic Tool 

Your measurement narrative is critical to bringing your leaders into the story being told by your words and numbers - and also for punching up the importance of your numbers to achieving the business’ outcomes.   

It’s also a defining way to help your own team and stakeholders focus on activities that can be demonstrated to have direct impact on your measures - and to deprioritize activities, initiatives and spend that don’t. 

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