There’s nothing new in saying that we should review and evaluate work to see what works. It’s obvious and it’s important. The problem is that many of us don’t do it often enough.
The chances of there being a comms person out there today who doesn’t think that reviewing and evaluating their work is important will be tiny.
Yeah, yeah, yeah – we know it’s important, but when there are 10 people asking for my help, three comms plans to write, the phone ringing off the hook and the impacts of a comms team which has been cut in half it’s a lot easier said than done.
Sound familiar? Yep, me too.
Amongst the many things I learned in 10 years of leading comms teams it’s that standing back and taking a good hard look at your work is 1. Absolutely vital, and 2. Something of a luxury to do often and well. Like wanting a brand new car but settling for paying the bare minimum to get the old car through another year’s MOT (and that sounds familiar too)
With the consultancy work I have been doing with comms2point0 I have had the incredible opportunity to review a dozen organisation’s communications activity in microscopic detail. This is fascinating work and I thoroughly engross myself in the detail of these reviews. They tell stories and give clear indicators to the ‘what should we do next?’ question.
But the truth is I rarely reviewed my own teams’ work in this forensic level of detail in 10 years of leading teams. ‘Why the hell not?’, my former bosses will shout.
Simple: Time constraints.
It’s the barrier which comes up with recurring monotony when we survey teams and their barriers to reviewing and evaluating.
Because the fact is that comms teams get pulled in multiple directions and at the same time. It can feel like being strapped to one of those Medieval stretching machines.
Prioritisation is of course part of the solution but, be honest - how good is your organisation at prioritisation?
I once asked a leadership team for their top priorities for the year ahead so that we could create the comms strategies and plans to deliver support to them. What did I get back? 28 priorities. That’s not prioritising, that’s just a big list.
It eventually got whittled down to 14, but that’s the thing – if you work in large or complex organisations you will probably have a list of priorities, and associated time requirements, which don’t add up.
- Be ruthless with your prioritisation. You can’t deliver 28 priorities well. Nor 14 for that matter
- You have to review what your current activity is, does and delivers so that you can base your future planning and resourcing on hard intelligence
I like to call it ‘RPM’ (which is likely a pointer to my age and my love of vinyl records)
RPM is: Review. Plan. Monitor.
We all do it to a point – you’ll check your web traffic, look at your Twitter engagements and follower numbers, see how many clicks or online sign-ups you have generated via your latest campaign. But we have to drill way deeper than that now to understand trends, behaviours, impacts.
You’ll have your favourite planning templates for creating a new comms plan or campaign. If you haven’t check out Alex Aiken’s ROSIE and now OASIS models. They provide a really sound framework.
Large reviews tend to be annual, at best. If and when you have some down time to fit them in.
But we all need to be monitoring weekly, daily and, in some cases, hourly.
And we need to make sure that there is real rigour around the ROI, business outcomes vs. targets, and clear intelligence over which of your activities delivers the most benefits. The trouble is you can’t just do this once and then dance off into the comms sunset forever. What worked for a campaign last year might not work so well for a new campaign next year.
Know your numbers, what they tell you and what they mean for your future planning.
Here are five reasons why I think reviews are important in shaping future plans…
1. Social media 2.0+
Every reasonably sized organisation has a Twitter account and most have a Facebook page. Every single council I know does, for example. These channels are way beyond being 'new' - these are traditional platforms now. But simply having an account and tweeting a couple of times a day will no longer be enough for your organisation.
How are you using the ever-growing range of tools and platforms to provide a much deeper use of, for example, Twitter? How will you embrace tools such as Twitter Polls into your plans and campaigns? What do your social analytics tell you, how much engagement are you really getting through your social channels? Do you know the best time of day to post,? Do you have a defined plan around your hashtags – their number, their use, their role as a 'call to action' within key campaigns?
It’s time for a much more sophisticated use of social media to support your wider comms activities and campaigns. Having thorough evidence and data will help you shape your future social plans.
2. What does good like?
Good means different things to different people. Knowing what good looks like for your comms activities and outcomes is important in shaping your work.
Through comms2point0 we have had a fortunate and unique opportunity to see first-hand the work and result which many of you create and deliver. We have a really good handle on who is doing what across the UK.
Sharing good practice, and the lessons arising from it, was one of the main reasons we created comms2point0 almost five years ago.
For example, who is doing great things with social media and customers? How is this being done and who leads and delivers this work in leading organisations? But drill down deeper - is the customer demand there, is this demand growing, and if so how quickly? Do you know at what point your comms team will fall over trying to satisfy this demand alone?
Recent research by Twitter UK shows that of those of us who purchase online, a whopping 71% expect an answer to a purchase-related, online question within 5 minutes. 5 minutes. Just stop and think about that.
Now whilst not all of our services will be in the business of selling online, those are the wider expectations which your customers, residents or patients are beginning to expect elsewhere online. And it will spread to you and your work someday soon if it hasn't already.
3. Have a ‘digital de-clutter’
When you can no longer open that cupboard door at home without the contents spilling out onto the floor what do you end up doing? You have a bloody good chuck out. And it’s the same with digital.
We’re all so busy that there simply isn’t time to do everything, be everywhere, engage on a dozen different social platforms, read great blog posts each day and try out the latest innovative new digital solutions all whilst doing a great job at work in the process.
I can heartily recommend a ‘digital de-clutter’. Both personally and professionally.
One thing I have worked really hard on this year is my time management and reducing any ineffective use of my time. So for me this has meant ditching things I either don’t like or get much from. Facebook springs to mind. My life is no less for not looking at Facebook (in fact I’d argue it’s a little bit better for it)
But when I need to utilise Facebook to help me deliver a social media campaign to attract nurses back to the profession I will absolutely use it. Use these tools and platforms for your own selfish needs. That's what Facebook does to you.
4. Be strategic. Obvs.
Yes, of course, we all know this. But too often we get ourselves caught in discussions and conversations about ‘which channel’. “Do we have a newspaper or do we go digital?” We have to elevate ourselves above this to be strategic and not bogged down in channel debates.
Use the available intelligence to inform – and, if you need it to – ‘educate’ your internal customers as to why a back of bus advert is not the way to go with a campaign. Make it about facts and not personal opinions. But to do this well you really need to…
5. ‘Know your media landscape’
One of the really big benefits of a thorough review of your communications activities is gaining a very clear focus on your media landscape – the world in which you operate.
I don’t just mean the number of Twitter followers your corporate account has. Mix this up with data on how many of your customers are likely to be on social media, how many own a smartphone, how many are using email and nail the true figure for how many copies your local newspaper really sells (you may find up to date and accurate info hard to come by but it’s there if you look closely)
How many of your local businesses are using LinkedIn?
And how many of your customers are using Instagram and does this provide an opportunity to explore in your next campaign?
So there you go. It’s time to put a little more RPM into your comms life.
Try to find the time and the resource to do it well – it will help you to manage the never ending side-wash of demand pouring into your teams. And it can help you achieve better results which may just help you keep your job come the next cull.
If you don’t have the time or the resource, do give us a shout and we’ll gladly come and help you.
Darren Caveney is a creative communications consultant and co-creator of comms2point0