The 7 myths of measuring internal communications
In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Sarah Carr about the seven myths of measuring internal communications.
Sarah is the Global Communications Insights Lead for Aviva, a financial services company with around 30,000 employees located around the world. She’s passionate about data and measuring outcomes, and finding the nuggets that help to discover how to communicate best with people.
It’s critical to measure
Sarah has been with Aviva for 18 years, and is responsible for the group’s understanding of who people are, what they need to know, and how to communicate effectively with them and continually improve that communication.
She started out in smaller organisations, from the roots of a family business – and so is a fervent believer that it is critical to know that what you do is benefitting the business.
“I can’t be okay with someone simply saying, ‘Let’s do this thing. Let’s spend this money on this project’. I need to know why,”Sarah says. “I need to understand what is the benefit of that, and how do we know that it’s the right thing? How do we know we have achieved that benefit or not?”
It’s from this foundation that Sarah’s seven myths of internal communications develop.
Myth #1: People on the stage have all the answers
It’s impossible to know everything, and it’s crucial to continue learning. Sarah quotes Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO, who echo’s Walmart’s founder’s words, “Most everything I’ve done I’ve copied from someone else.”
It’s important to be curious, to be interested and open. Collecting wisdom is the best approach.
Myth #2: The best comms are epic and award-winning
There’s a misplaced belief that the most effective communications are fanfare productions – big, exciting affairs with a sea change effect.
“The best way to achieve outcomes is sometimes the ordinary. Something you’ve done 100 times before,” says Sarah.
To learn what is the best way to communicate, Sarah prefers to “start from the outcome of what you’re trying to achieve and work your way back to find the best way. Don’t start with strategy: create from desired results.”
Myth #3: Always trust your gut instinct
Often, we do things because it ‘feels right’. Our gut instinct says this is the way to do things.
“At any point in time, your brain is receiving up to 11 million pieces of data. You can’t consciously think about 11 million pieces of data… There’s an awful lot of stuff happening that you aren’t consciously aware of,” says Sarah.
The result is that “Your brain uses all of your collected experience and wisdom to kind of filter through and only deliver certain things into your conscious based on what you think is relevant.”
Consequently, our instinct is directed by confirmation bias. A more effective strategy is to look for the opposite of what you believe to be true before making decisions.
Myth #4: You need lots of time and fancy tech to do good measurement
You must know what to measure and how to measure it. Then measure it in the easiest way possible.
Sarah retells the story of Innocent – the drink maker – when it first started out making smoothies. They wanted to know which smoothies would sell best, so they set up a street stall and asked customers to throw their emptied cups into one of two bins – ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They quickly found out which flavours were favourite. The moral is, don’t overcomplicate measuring results – keep it simple.
Myth #5: You should always measure everything
Coming from someone who is so passionate about collecting and measuring data to create communication strategy, this myth may surprise you. What Sarah says though, is that it is pointless measuring what you already know. Your time and energy would be better spent elsewhere.
Myth #6: It’s all about demonstrating return on investment
Many comms experts attempt to show why they warrant a seat at the table by showing the return on investment they provide. But people already know the importance of effective communication.
Instead of saying “Look at what we’ve done and how important we are”, Sarah says it’s more effective to spend time being“future-focused about what is the stuff that we absolutely have to smash as an organisation and how can all our specialist skills, experience, knowledge and abilities help you to do that.”
Myth #7: Comms is all about the fluffy soft stuff
Many people within organisations believe that internal comms is about how we phrase our words to deliver messages. It’s much more. Communication professionals and teams really do have the power to make or break the organisations in which they work.
‘Internal communications’ is not a buzzword, it’s a crucial business function. It helps to engage people in the organisation’s purpose, and the direct result of that is the discretionary effort that delivers exceptional performance across the organisation.
Career advice and the story of a kingfisher
Sarah rounds off an entertaining and informative episode with three tips on career building, and a story of a kingfisher that gives the listener an insight to her more personal side – something you might not expect from someone with self-declared ‘geeky interests’.
Sara’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-carr-77074b93/