In the last article, X-Axis explored the measurement framework of any effectiveness of communication. This is part of what an assessment is all about. While in the larger sense it is a look back for course correction, it is also a ratification of what went right, and how those elements can be used again. Which is why it is rather “inimical”. In its origins inimical is both a friend and an enemy, typical of an assessment, friend and a foe. A “friend” is for later, this week X-Axis will look at how not to make an assessment a foe. If one looks up the Merriam-Webster, inimical rarely describes a person, it is generally used to describe forces, concepts, or situations that are in some way harmful or hostile. An assessment driven solely by the function of corporate communications falls squarely into this category.
An organisation setting out to implement an assessment of the communications or a campaign must begin with
- the rationale of the decision,
- the impact they hope to achieve, and
- the approach to take to implementation.
In a very ideal situation, the assessment or measuring the effectiveness of communication must use a framework that can pass the self assessment of
- being applied by different types of groups,
- using various methodologies, and
- with different specific objectives.
In a corporate setting the groups are largely derived from the stakeholders and the methodologies can range from settings as varied as an e-mail communique to a press briefing. The seemingly contradictory words of “different” and “specific” have a large significance as communication to different segments of stakeholders have different strategic purpose.
In the rationale of the decision for an assessment, the question that needs to be answered first is whether the effectiveness measure can be utilised to guide the production of a comprehensive, rigorous, systematic and authoritative analysis and very importantly, documentation of the effectiveness of communication. The reiteration here is on the credibility and authority of the analysis and of the overall process. The goal of measuring the effectiveness, is to produce a set of documents and rules that will help to define the campaign, identify key issues, and ultimately influence the stakeholders towards the objectives set out. One of the most important factors for this is to be
- demonstrably objective,
- non-partisan in approach
- inclusive and engaging with stakeholders
One of the key areas of any assessment be it communication effectiveness or the reach effectiveness there are bound to be attributes and questions are very specific, while others are general. Unfortunately these lead to a situation where it is difficult to form the methodology from the view point of research, presentation and prioritisation. This is a fallacy where the entire exercise get to be inimical. This scenario is not just a matter of quantitative versus qualitative analysis, though that is part if it, some issues appear to be purely objective in nature, while others demand a value judgment. This judgement call tends to be based, at times, on limited information, which tends to redundancy of conclusions. Although they may in principle be valid concerns, in practice they do not significantly impinge on reality, and their inclusion appears to be geared towards a comparative context, brought on by a bias. Some of these problems are unavoidable, and only the application of common sense can be suggested as a partial remedy. But that is not what an unbiased assessment or measurement should be. A partial resolution is to assign the detail to one area or another, and cross-reference appropriately.
Some problems stem from an attempt with the framework to fix a minimal degree of comparability to practices or campaigns that have worked in the past. Others from a desire to create a comprehensive vision of communication practice across the spectrum so that the coherence of the messages becomes apparent. At times these may not be apparent in the immediate instance but could be of value in the future. All said and done the initial intention of an assessment is to assist a conceptual convergence in relation to effectiveness of the communication to enhance (A) the potential and the (B) the value of, collaboration.
The inimical fallacy stems from the inherent faults within the framework, these can be avoided by basing the all encompassing culture of basing the assessment exercise on the presumption of answering the.
- identify gaps and limitations
- tease out areas of disagreement and uncertainty
- obtain a consensus on the conclusions
- identify and agree on the key concerns that merit urgent and significant attention
- propagate to stakeholders a deeper understanding of the concept and issues
The strategic goal of any assessment will always go beyond the mere production of a report. There is considerable value to be derived from the process itself, generated through broad participation, consultation and the verification process, but this is consolidated only with further activity. To understand impact and to engage; to create a follow-up from output to outcome.
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