How to measure information gaps in your communication
Measuring information gaps
You can find out how well you are currently communicating on important organizational subjects and whether you are using the channel preferred by your internal or external audience. For instance, it is pointless to use your employee newsletter as the sole channel of information about a key issue if your target audience generally prefers to have a dialogue about it face-to-face with their supervisor or through the organizational intranet or even social media.
The audience responses would be a valuable guide for you to focus your communication more tightly on what they don’t know, on what they want to know and using channels of communication they prefer.
Typical questions to ask respondents would be:
- How interested they are in learning about it (on a scale of 1 to 5).
- How well informed they currently believe they are (on a scale of 1 to 5).
- What their current sources of information are on that topic (multiple choice).
- What their preferred sources are on that topic (multiple choice).
The questions could be put into a matrix.
The matrix could include two categories of “How interested I am” and “How well informed I am” on a scale of 1-5 ranging from “Not at all” to “Very interested.”
The selected information could be on topics such as:
- What I’m expected to do in my job
- Superannuation/pension plan and other benefits
- How I can help meet objectives
- Products and services
These types of questions could be included in a short and simple questionnaire. You could put the questionnaire to selected groups in problem areas to identify the nature and extent of communication bottlenecks in those areas.
If people aren’t interested in the information you wish to convey, you can conduct focus groups to find out why, and use the responses to change your communication tactics.
To check that any communication activity initiated after the survey has resulted in a smaller gap between the level of information and the level of interest, you should conduct a follow-up survey.
(I’m indebted to US communication measurement consultant, Angela Sinickas, for this technique.)
It may be important for stakeholder groups such as supervisors or managers to have a minimum knowledge level about a particular topic, eg planned redundancies or new employee superannuation/pension plan policy. Testing of knowledge about a particular topic can be administered with questions that have right and wrong answers. The questions can be asked in a true/false format or in a multiple choice format. It is advisable to offer an “I don’t know” option to gauge the number of people who realize that they don’t know the answer. The extent of changes in knowledge can be measured before and after a communication project.
Similar tests can be conducted with external groups.
These quick measurement activities can be conducted at minimal cost. If you want to communicate more effectively, you can use the techniques to improve your focus.