Most people recognize that communications can be more art than science, but they also know that there are tangible benefits to organizations. An investment in digital signs is no different. The value of digital signs is that they provide benefits that ripple throughout the organization, and effective use of a good system can impact your culture, operational performance, and ultimately play a role in contributing to the bottom line.
Take, for example, the benefits of a system that’s accessible from a web browser and easy to use, even to those unfamiliar with these technologies. When people across your organization can contribute to a system of visual communications, you democratize your communications processes. That, in turn, lessens the amount of time spent on creating, managing and delivering key messages, lowers the cost of communications, enhances credibility, and increases employee satisfaction.
Moreover, visual communications complement and enhance critical operations. For example, in recent years many organizations have implemented greater security and business continuity plans, and an effective visual communications medium gives you greater capabilities to share alerts and manage a crisis. A centralized system increases a culture’s trust and cooperation, and in terms of performance, plans can be executed more efficiently.
Providing your organization with greater communication tools has multiple, interrelated effects, and the more effectively they’re used, the greater the benefits.
Ultimately, you’ll want concrete measurement of costs and benefits. Accurate measurement involves three essential components – a definable goal, an accurate view of ‘before’, and an accurate view of ‘after’. Before you implement a system and start measuring results, see if you have enough data on past campaigns or processes. If you don’t, you may want to run a campaign first as you normally would, measuring results along the way so that you have a benchmark to contrast with communications after the system is in place. Fully understanding your starting point is a huge advantage.
So, how do you even know if your visual communications are having the impact you want them to have? Do you know what you want your audience to do after seeing your messages? Do you have an effective method in place to determine how successful you have been?
To answer these questions, it is necessary to first figure out exactly what the point of your communications is. What are you trying to say and what should people have or do once they receive your message? Your goals will most likely fall into one of several broad categories:
- To compel –charity drives, student organizations and activities, benefits enrollment
- To inform – new policies at work, classes and training dates, wayfinding and directions, weather and news
- To motivate – employee reward programs, stock price and profit-sharing schemes, internal contests
- To include – welcome messages, new hire and birthday announcements, community and social activities
- To recognize – organization and individual achievements, safety benchmarks, sports teams stats
- To warn – severe weather, fire and HAZMAT emergencies, security threats
Each reason for communicating will have its own method of measuring success. Communications that are intended to get the audience to do something will see an increase in participation and enrollment numbers, as well as a possible increase in traffic on your Intranet or website.
If the goal is to inform, casual lunchroom polls or water cooler chatter might measure how much information was taken in; you might also see higher attendance for advertised training courses or meetings. For motivational messages, you should see an increase in productivity. Messages designed to make your audience feel included or to recognize achievements ought to see an increase in morale and participation in programs. After alert communications, you should see people following your set procedures and policies that are designed to limit panic and injuries.
There are informal ways of measuring your success, such as gathering information through general conversation with peers and audiences – a lunchroom chat, if you will, in which you simply ask people if they have seen your messages and what they thought of them. Another method is to use formal surveys to ask specific, targeted questions to ensure that you are communicating exactly what you want. A few things to keep in mind when crafting a formal survey:
- Keep it short – People are usually happy to spend five minutes or so of their time filling in questions, but will look at it as a chore if it takes much longer than that. Remember, this is a quick survey, not a test or a focus group.
- Focus on one topic – Let the questions flow intuitively around the subject matter. If the survey is scattered or confusing, you’ll get fewer results and less participation.
- Consider demographics – Make sure you ask questions that segment your audience. People in different locations, positions, etc. have different exposure to technologies and different communication needs and expectations.
- Leave some wiggle room – Always include comment boxes so your audience can give you comments, not just on the survey topic as a whole, but also for individual questions.
- Put it online – Using an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey.com makes the whole process easier. Participants access the survey on a web page and click through for their answers. Responses are compiled into statistical data that’s easy for you to interpret.
- Repeat. Repeat Again – You can’t judge progress unless you have a baseline for comparison. Repeat your survey after adequate time has passed (usually a minimum of 90 days). Don’t alter the questions or answers, or you’ll distort the comparison.
When crafting and implementing a method of measuring your communications’ effectiveness, the idea is to make it a long-term, continuing process. With constant feedback from your target audience, you can fine-tune your messages and campaigns to become better and better at reaching the specific people you are targeting and getting the results you want.