As communicators, we know what we do is important. But how do we communicate that to others who don’t understand our work?
I like to chalk up my obsession with evaluation and metrics to the former head of my graduate program at the University of Southern California, Jerry Swerling. Jerry, known nationwide as a PR guru, would hammer home, as much as possible, the importance of strategic communications planning, evaluation and what has come to be one of the most valuable skills in my career: communicating my successes.
Why? Well, most people who go into communications or PR aren’t waiting for their chance in the spotlight…our job is to lift others up. Although we are really, really good at promoting a company, person or product, we are somewhat humble when it comes to ourselves. So why is this a problem?
For starters, many people don’t understand what we actually do. You could answer a reporter’s call late Friday night, work with her nonstop throughout the weekend on what you are certain will be a great story, only to get it cut Monday morning. Although you’re bummed, the reporter thanks you for your assistance and promises to keep in touch with future needs. You develop a mutually-beneficial relationship in the long run, but how do you quantify all of that work when, seemingly, nothing came of it?
Communicators MUST learn how to not only evaluate their successes properly but also how to communicate them. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?
Let me put it in simpler terms: if you don’t toot your own horn, who will? Call me Negative Nellie if you will, and perhaps it’s because right after 9/11, I graduated into a dismal job market where you took whatever job you could get (I photocopied press clippings at a hospital, in case you were wondering). I then decided to move to Detroit, right before an awful recession hit the Motor City hard. Almost every single interviewer asked me about my successes and almost every single organization I worked at during these time periods scrutinized which–or all–of the communications staff to cut in a downturn. So if you weren’t adding value, you wouldn’t be seeing the inside of that company any longer.
As I moved into leadership positions, it became important to me to not only raise up my staff and their accomplishments but to teach them how. Now, as a college professor, each and every class, we talk about the importance of measuring and evaluating our work as communicators.
Bottom line is, if you’re not doing your job–and more–you won’t have success stories to share, nor will your organization see you like an important team member. If you are doing some great things, start sharing them. Not bragging about them, but more so, subtly letting others know what you’re up to. Perhaps it’s a weekly clippings report to executive management and the board. Or a monthly report summarizing KPIs such as social media engagement increases, interviews secured, funds raised, sales made through marketing initiatives, etc., etc.
If you’d like to see how I’ve done some of my reports, email me and I’ll send you a couple of examples.
You’ve got this!