Brevity takes time

In a world of instant communications people often want to understand the shortcuts. 

How can you drive great results faster, with less effort?

The truth is – for the most part -  you can’t.  You get what you put into it.

Effort shows. 

Your investment of valuable time let’s people know you care.

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter." Blaise Pascal, The Provincial Letters, 1657

How often have you received a long, confusing, rambling email about something important? It’s a missed opportunity.

If something is actually important, invest the time.

Ironically, brevity takes time.

Comms: It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it

The Wisdom of Crowds has always been a concept that concerned me.  The behavior and knowledge of “crowds” too often resembles the Stupidity of the Flock.

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There are often benefits to the Crowd, but in a connected world, this groupthink often results in the mass adoption of falsehoods with no basis in fact.

There’s a lot of this behavior in discussions about communications.

Let’s take email as an example.  I was at an event where the ‘wisdom of the crowd” was that email was at best dying and at worst dead.  However, some precision questioning on this topic found that email was still the most used way to communicate.  People proclaiming the death of email didn’t actually measure whether it was working or not.  It was a hunch – at best.

Now don’t worry I’m not going to try and mount a defense of email.  Email may or may not work for your communications. That’s not the point.  The point is that today, more than anytime in the past, we have access to data that helps us to gain insight into what’s working and what’s not.  Reading it on Twitter doesn’t count as insight.

Before you take a position on the effectiveness of a tool or channel, measure it.  If you’re not measuring it, how can you tell?  Your gut?

Secondly, once you’re measuring a tool or channel, invest time and care in how you execute.  Too many communications today are lazy, sloppy and unimaginative.  Yet people blame the tool without honestly looking at the execution.  Too many templates and not enough energy in experimenting with new approaches, with design, with creating something that might be compelling or engaging. Experiment and measure.  See what happens, then start to form a thesis or a opinion.

Thirdly think about multiple tools and channels.  Think about how people prefer to consume information – or better again ask them.

Do yourself a favor. Before jumping on the latest bandwagon, develop your own opinion.  Your boss will thank you for it.

Great communications requires great measurement…

I recently attended an internal communications event. I always enjoy getting the opportunity to meet and hear from other communicators. You’ll always pick something up.

This particular event included a panel with four internal communications practitioners.  They each covered a range of topics from what was working best for their organizations, to using social channels with internal audiences.

The moderator’s last question addressed that most notorious of topics for communicators everywhere – measurement. 

Here were the responses…

Panelist 1 (PR agency): “Well with our client <name redacted> we’re buying access to employees on Facebook.”

My take: OK.  That’s a tactic and many companies are investing in Facebook to engage their employees.  But it’s not really measurement….

Panelist 2 (In-house private mid-sized company): “Our company is just too small to measure communications.”

My take: Eh.  Your company is too small to measure communications but big enough to pay the salary of a full time communications person? How do you justify your existence if you’re not measuring your work?

Panelist 3 (In-house large national company): “Well we’ve a big team that looks after measurement but I don’t really get involved in it.”

My take: Where do I even start with that?  So the company is measuring communications but the communications person never asks to see the results? Oh my….

Panelist 4 (In-house high profile (relatively new) public technology company): “Well our company is all about data.  We’re a completely data driven company.  But to be honest, I don’t use data to measure internal communications. I know what’s working and what isn’t”

My take: Sorry I can’t even address that one…

I sat there quietly.  I’m not sure if I was rocking back and forth in my chair, but I could have been.  I was trying to work out how I could respectfully address just how ridiculous, misleading and wrong these answers were.

I did, respectfully.

But here’s the thing.  The experience worries me about the communications profession.

How, in the 21st century, can a communicator not measure the impact of their work?  How do they get budget? How do they make decisions on the right tools, channels and content to use?  Do they stick their finger in the air?

Back in the early 1990s where there was little or no digital tools or channels, we measured communications.

Today, everything is digital.  Data is everywhere. It’s not expensive. It’s not complex – unless you consider using a search engine complex. How can you not measure the outputs and outcomes of your communications?

I realize that, on the whole, we communicators aren’t mad about numbers, or data and analysis, but today this is central to your job.  Central to understanding the people you’re communicating with. Central to understanding what’s working and what’s not working – where to invest valuable time and resources and where not to invest.

Not measuring communications isn’t a failing or a missed opportunity. Not measuring communications is gross negligence.

If you don’t know about measurement then research it on the web.

Start with Katie Paine or the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications.

If you want some food for thought listen to this great podcast from the FIR Podcast Network on ROI and measurement.

Measurement isn’t just about justifying your existence, it’s about learning, doing a better job, driving better results. It’s simply a non-negotiable.