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Don’t turn up with cap in hand, deliver ROI 

By Adrian Cropley OAM, FRSA, ABC, CEO and Principal of Cropley Communication, and the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence

I always remember when I was about 10 heading to the movies with my grandmother to watch Oliver. It was an all-time Christmas favourite along with A Christmas Carol. Two films that gave hope in the face of desperate poverty in a cruel world, where charity and goodwill eventually shone through. The classic line in Oliver, that always brought a tear to my eye was “please sir, I want some more” as a very hungry Oliver just wanted a little more food. Both these movies have similar characters, with the ragged clothes and flat caps, often held out to strangers hoping to score a few pennies, the classic cap in hand! Who’d have known 15 years later, I’d be approaching my executive with cap in hand asking for more money to deliver the next internal communication initiative. Every time I was handed the budget for the next year, I reflected back to my 10-year-old self and thought, well it won’t be long before I go back the executive and say, “please sir, I want some more”.

 

In the early days of internal communication, often what we delivered, was contingent on what we were given in the budget. When you only got gruel, it was hard to keep up a healthy IC function. I learnt very early on that delivering good outcomes and delivering insight along with demonstrating ROI meant I got to ask for the budget I needed, rather than be handed a few scraps off the executive table. So, what did I learn? Well, let me share with you the 7 steps to producing communication ROI which is also available as a free toolkit you can download.

Step 1: Understand the business need and desired outcomes from your communication

All communication projects are initiated to address a business need. The first step towards solving a communication challenge is the same as with any business issue. First, seek to understand.

 

  • What is the business problem?

  • What outcome does the business need?

 

Step 2: Define the communication outcomes (to support this business need)

What specifically are your communication outcomes? Here’s where you decide what winning will look like. Write down what success would entail, in terms of knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.

 

Step 3: Define the gaps and list the measures

Analyse the gap between the current and desired states in step 2, determining what it is you are trying to improve, and how it can be measured. For example: Is the solution seeing an increase in efficiency? Take pre-and post-measurements of time spent now vs. potential saving.

 

Also consider things like potential increase of sales, reduction of accidents, effects on retention and absenteeism.

 

Step 4: Determine financial benefit in closing the gap

Ask yourself this question: if you succeed in closing the gap, what impact does that have on the bottom line? For example, increased sales, decrease in re-work, increase productivity etc. In this step, you are dealing with everything that is not about cost of communication, that comes next. This is where your look for the benefit, the actual savings in terms of money or time (which of course is also money).

 

Step 5: Plan and implement the communication solution

Based on the business issue and the communication outcomes, what is the proposed solution to reach the desired outcomes? What is the total cost of the solution? This is generally what we do well as internal communication professionals, we need to ensure that we may be delivering a benefit to the business but it does cost to communicate.

 

Step 6: Measure impact of communication

Here’s where you get to discover what your communication plan has had an impact on. What savings have been made or what has changed in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours? This is valuable in itself, however we are looking for the actual savings.

 

Step 7: Report outcome and ROI

Calculate your ROI using figures gathered in the previous steps. The outcome itself as I said before, is valuable in terms of insight to the business, however now you have both the benefit (the savings you have made) plus the cost (of communication), you can simply use this formula to calculate % ROI.

These steps may look quite simple, but it will take some patience and practice to improve your ROI skills. The hardest thing is understanding what is often seen as intangible activities being very tangible in terms of money. However, over time you find ways of putting some hard figures to softer business issues. Trust me, the biggest joy you will get, is when you no longer have to approach your executive with cap in hand, simply because they get the fact that the communication outcomes you are delivering are having such a positive impact on the bottom line.

 

Visit the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence or join our mailing list for tips, tools and insights developed by communication professionals for communication professionals.

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Capture d’écran, le 2019-04-03 à 17.31.5

Adrian Cropley OAMFRSA, ABC, is CEO and Principal of Cropley Communication, and the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence. As a pioneer in internal communication, he has 30+ years of experience in strategic communication and specialises in change communication, corporate communication, communication training and development and executive coaching. He works with some of the globes biggest companies, advising on strategic approaches to communication.