As communicators, we invariably have to battle to prove the worth of our activities in dollars. Here’s a case study of how US consultant Angela Sinickas helped one client to prove the value of her internal communication.
A division of the former Pharmacia Corporation had identified five goals. One was to increase sales of their highest profit-margin product, a goal they exceeded. They did this without increasing the advertising or PR for this product, or by changing the sales incentive plan. The main method used was increased internal communication, especially with sales employees.
To demonstrate that employee communication had led to the achievement of the company’s sales goal, the vice president of employee communication had arranged for consultant Angela Sinickas to survey employees at the end of the sales period. The survey included three levels of questions:
- How well-informed employees felt about the goal (attitude)
- Employees’ ability to identify which main elements of the goal listed on the survey were incorrect (knowledge)
- How much impact employees thought communication had on achieving the goal (outcome)
The results were compelling:
- 55% said they felt well informed or very well informed about the sales goal. (Only 37% felt informed about the year’s other four goals.)
- 62% answered the knowledge question about the goal correctly. (Only 29–46% answered knowledge questions about the other four goals correctly.)
- 54% said communication was either the main reason or one of three reasons the goal was achieved.
The numbers were even stronger among sales employees who were the primary target of the communication:
- 78% said communication was a primary reason the goal was achieved.
The client used the survey numbers to calculate a return on investment of 279%, based on the entire cost of the communication function that year and the research conducted.
This communication campaign received an IABC Gold Quill Award of Excellence, and the communication function’s budget was tripled the following year.
Go to www.sinicom.com for some very useful articles about proving the use of communication to achieve operational results.
This case study shows how low-cost, and even no-cost, measurement can clearly prove the value of a communication activity. The communication manager can easily develop a survey questionnaire and distribute it to the relevant employees.
In the above case, the survey related to sales activities, but similar quick surveys can be done internally for powerful results. For instance, you can easily ask these two simple questions for employees to fill in (anonymously):
- “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the importance of communication from your immediate supervisor or manager?” and
- “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the quality of communication of your supervisor or manager?”
The questions could also be included in annual HR/communication surveys that many organizations conduct.
The findings from this type of survey are usually quite compelling and show overwhelmingly the need for better internal communication.
You can then go to senior management and demand greater attention to internal communication by tabling this proof with them. Obviously you would need to be tactful about how you go about it because there is a danger that the managers surveyed would become enemies for life as you have shown them up!
Article updated in 2020.
Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.