Communicators are typically not excited by data.  In fact, most of the ones I know will be ready to turn heel and head for the hills screaming if you ask them to get involved in databases.  However, this is the age of data mining and communicators, like other professionals, can learn a lot from data.

For communicators, developing measurements to demonstrate their value is important.  Unfortunately, because communicators are typically not “numbers people”, they often don’t know where to start or what’s relevant or (worse) have to reconstruct history to measure. In small organizations and non-profits, the common complaint is that they don’t have the tools, the time or the budget to measure.

The truth is that some of the most elegant ways to measure communication are neither costly nor time-consuming. Click To Tweet On the assumption that a communications program has a measurable objective, the measurement is self-defined.

Finding the right tool to measure may require some careful thought and some ingenuity, depending on the resources at hand.  For example, if you want to travel west, you can follow the sun, use a compass or employ satellite systems to guide you.  Obviously, the blunter the instrument, the less precise the answer but not every destination requires laser precision.

The same is true for measuring communications campaigns.  Sometimes anecdotal evidence is enough and sometimes third party, statistically significant opinion polls are warranted.  The trick is to find ways to measure impact without breaking the bank or losing sleep.

As wise person once said, “begin with the end in mind”.  At the start of the campaign, think about who needs to be influenced (audience); establish what is known about them (baseline data) and define what success would be (how they will change as a result of the campaign).

With that thinking as part of the campaign planning, indicators of success will be clear.  For a really simple example, let’s say you want more effective internal meetings.  Some success measures you might use are: on-time attendance, a written agenda, quality of discussion, accountability for next steps, meeting minutes, and follow-through after the meeting.  These can all be tracked in real time and take no more than a few minutes – no big budget, no lost sleep.

The bottom line is that tracking success just takes forethought and establishing the right tools and processes to track progress – it doesn’t take big budgets and extra staff.