#14 Not So Effective Communications Techniques from the 2008 LEAN Communications Contest

by | Nov 2, 2008 | Blog | 0 comments

In the two years I have been running the LEAN Communications contest I’m still surprised that so few contest entrants have a crisp description of the direct results/value they achieved with their contest entries.  Measurable results should be the motivation for LEAN Communications.

Instead, here are some of the wishy washy results statements this year (paraphrased to protect the innocent and guilty):

“Reader comments have been positive.”

“More than X number of visitors has used the service. Articles about this service have appeared in at least six newspapers.”

“This leader started to think differently about her communications.”

Out with outputs! Outputs are basically activities, not results. You don’t want to fall in the trap of measuring what you’re doing or done. How do you know it’s important, as in making a difference for you, your customers and the organization?

Instead, in with outcomes! Outcome measures are results that people care about, such as market share, reduced inventory, improved margins, increased customer referrals, improved engagement and productivity. Granted, outcomes measures are more complicated for communications pros because we don’t control all the parts and processes to achieve these outcomes. We have to partner with others in the organization. But if you measure just outputs, you can find yourself on the outside looking in.

As a contrast, here’s how you might convert these outputs to outcomes:

Readers are opening our new e-newsletter at a rate X% higher than the general industry standard and are commenting on average Y times per issue, demonstrating increased engagement with the e-newsletter.”

“More than X number of visitors has used the service at a reduced cost of Y because they can take a self-tour with their cell phones on their time rather than schedule a tour with a paid staff member.”

“After revamping our leaders’ written communications, we conducted another survey of her peers and her customers. They rated her communication easier to read, ranked their understanding of the business issues higher, and said she was more credible.”

So if you want to get better faster, focus on your end state first. Before you start to do anything, ask yourself and your customers, “What are we trying to do? What does success look like? What’s the problem we need to solve?”

By asking these questions, you’ll hone in faster on what you need to do. And you can define critical success factors that you can use to measure your progress along the way and at the end.  When you’re done, you’ll start to have a sense of what you accomplished—which is helpful to you, your customers, your organization and the judges for any contests you enter.

To be successful, you need to impress yourself and your customers with outcomes measurement, not impressions of what you or others saw. (Shonali Burke did a great blog on this topic in October, Hell is freezing over what is the ROI on that?

Want to make another good impression? And help your co-workers, customers, contest judges and anyone else you send computer files? Think before you name your files. Ask yourself, “Who’s getting the file? What do they need to know about it? What name is going to work for them and for me?

I’ve lost track of how many files I receive named “Liz Guthridge.doc.” What is that? Not very descriptive, clear or helpful. Going back to the LEAN Communications contest, 50% of the entries sent in their application with the original file name: “2008contestentry.doc.”

These entrants relied on the contest administrator to rename, store and recover their documents accurately.(For all the problems with bad document names, see my blog rant.

So in the spirit of continual  improvement, name your files appropriately and plan your outcomes.  And if you’re entering the 2009 IABC Gold Quill Awards competition which is now accepting entries, good luck! Pay close attention to #6 Measurement/Evaluation of Outcomes/Results. And also plan to enter the 2009 LEAN Communications contest summer of 2009.


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