Measuring Messages

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Q: I am researching best practices in communications measurement to identifying when employees are receiving key messages and when they are not. Kind of a “stealth bomber” approach to the usual measurement and metrics. My organization is rolling out a new organization design and we are looking for new ways to help determine if employees are receiving critical messages.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Catherine Tornero

A: Dear Catherine:

I can suggest a number of different ways to see if your employees are getting the key messages you are sending them:

  1. Are they physically getting it? I find that all too often the average employee doesn’t have access to the channels of communication that are carrying the messages. Before checking anything else, you might want to check your distribution channels. What percentage of employees don’t have access to staff meetings? They’ll never have a chance to hear the key messages traveling through the so-called “management cascade” of information. What percentage has access to email or the intranet…and what percentage actually checks those two sources? I think you get the idea.
  2. Take small groups of people who have seen/heard a particular channel that is carrying the key messages heavily. Ask them all the messages that they recall from the latest publication, meeting, video, etc. This is “unaided recall.” Then ask them to go through a list of messages, articles, etc. while referring to the original communication vehicle and have them identify which messages they now recall. You can then ask them what made the difference in the way information was presented that helped them recall some key messages but not others. This is known as “aided recall.”
  3. On a survey, ask people how interested they are in each key message and how well informed they feel. The differences between these two will be the size of your information gaps. This also will help you identify topics where two messages might have the same size gap, but the interest level in one might be lower than the other. To improve people’s information level in this case, you might first have to increase their interest level to get them to pay attention to the messages in the first place.
  4. You can also create a knowledge test, either True-False or multiple choice, about the key messages. This tells you more than the responses to #3 above. People sometimes feel well informed, or think that they understand something very well, but they may not really know the facts. Seeing if knowledge levels improve after particular communication campaigns will tell you how well the messages really got through. You can administer the knowledge test on an ongoing basis by phone, or email or paper. One company turned a knowledge test into a contest. Everyone who knew the right answers received a prize. Of course, publicizing this contest gave more people an incentive to learn about the key messages, which is the whole point anyway!

I hope this gives you a few ideas to get started on. Let me know how it goes.

Angela D. Sinickas