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Research Paper: Standards to Measure Internal Communication

Lise Michaud

A research paper describing the findings of the award-winning Delphi study to identify standards for internal communication has been published in the last issue of Public Relations Journal (Vol. 11 Issue 3). The authors* introduce and define measurement standards that internal communication practitioners can use to create more effective communication plans and measure the value communication brings to their organizations.

Final proposed internal communication standards and definitions

The research paper provides the final proposed internal communication standards and their conceptual definitions. Researchers hope that these standards will be adopted and used by internal communication professionals "to effectively and efficiently guide measurement and evaluation of communication initiatives."

The 22 specific standards are divided into 3 categories:

  1. Outtakes : whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messaging

  2. Outcomes : evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors

  3. Organizational Impact : if and how internal communication has influenced organizational performance

Here are the definitions for each standard:

© Institute for Public Relations

Figure 1 below shows the operational model of the proposed standards, suggesting how outtakes lead to outcomes, which in turn, lead to organizational impact.

© Institute for Public Relations

"The researchers believe that a successful internal communication program must fully fulfill standards associated with outtakes and outcomes in order to achieve standards of organizational impact. Future research can test this proposed path as well as the relationships between the various internal communication standards."

Why engagement wasn’t included as a stand-alone standard

Participants were asked whether engagement should be added to the internal communication standards. "A total of 68% of participants said that engagement is embedded in other concepts and should not be added as a stand-alone standard. A total of 32% of respondents said engagement should be added as a standard." One of these participants explained, “Given that CEOs monitor engagement and invest in engagement surveys, it's important to define it and for communicators to incorporate it into their efforts.” However, "after careful consideration and conversation, the researchers decided not to include engagement as a standard, because it is a function of several other standards, including knowledge, understanding, discretionary effort, trust, and satisfaction. This decision will enable organizations to pinpoint issues related to engagement; it is more actionable to measure the antecedents to engagement."

Next steps

Researchers plan to provide suggestions for measuring the standards and testing them with select organizations for validity and reliability. The paper indicates that they "ultimately plan to provide a tested and effective internal communication guidebook and measurement instructions to enable internal communication practitioners the ability to measure and evaluate and to demonstrate a process for testing reliability."

In her blog post, researcher Stacey Smith writes : "Currently, the team is seeking a few organizations who would like to work with us in identifying how to measure each of these concepts — with survey research and behaviorally with data an organization may already have on hand. If your organization might have an interest, let us know!"

Read the paper A Delphi Study to Identify Standards for Internal Communication at

*Authors of the research paper are: Julie O’Neil, Ph.D. Texas Christian University, Professor; Michele Ewing, M.A. & APR Kent State University; Associate Professor Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA Jackson, Jackson & Wagner, Senior Counsel and Partner Sean Williams, M.A. True Digital Communications, Vice President.

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