Survey: Measurement, storytelling cited as top weaknesses

From PR pros to internal communicators, tracking one’s impact is a top concern. Most also struggle to make boring stories interesting.

A wide range of communicators—from public relations pros to human resources specialists—perceive measurement as their major Achilles’ heel.

A Ragan survey of 576 communication professionals reveals that most place measurement at or near the top of their weaknesses.

The survey of Ragan Communications readers asked, “Which of these are your top three weaknesses?” offering options such as pitching journalists, using video and improving one’s corporate culture.

A majority of internal communicators, PR professionals, social media specialists and human resources communicators placed “Measuring the impact of your role” at the top.

By contrast, speechwriters and media relations professionals listed “telling interesting stories about boring topics” as their top concern.

Yet when asked if they would be willing to request funds “to help educate away your weakness(es),” a significant minority of communicators of all stripes said, “No.”

Internal communicators were least willing to overturn the cushions on the corporate couch and dig for spare change for educational purposes.

Sixty percent of internal communicators said they were willing to ask the organizational seigneurs to shell out shekels to sharpen their skills. This compares with 68% of PR pros, 81% of social media specialists, 63% of speechwriters, 67% of media relations pros, 69% of marketers, and 63% of human relations communicators.

Measurement angst ran highest among social media pros: 55% apparently go to work fearing that the boss will demand numbers proving their impact.

Among PR pros, 50% confessed that measuring their impact was a weakness. Another 28% expressed concerns about their ability to prove to senior leaders the importance of their team’s work.

Only among the survey’s marketers and media relations specialists did measurement fall behind other weaknesses.

Among marketers, measurement fell behind “telling interesting stories about boring topics” (42%) and “getting significant ROI with digital and social media advertising” (41%).

A startling 10% of social media specialists listed as a weakness “adding social media to your communications program.”

Asking the boss’s boss

Those who list measurement as a weakness should ask “their boss’s boss” to define value—”and then figure out how to measure that,” says Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing and publisher of The Measurement Advisor.

“Instead they’re spitting up whatever numbers their platforms of vendors produce and are disappointed that their bosses don’t see that as value,” Paine says.

“I’m not saying that there isn’t a connection between their activities and value to the organization,” she adds. “I’m suggesting that they’re not bothering to connect those dots or come up with acceptable proxies for their role in the path to purchase.”

Drew Keller, a video consultant and storyteller, says the struggle to make boring content interesting is a common problem.  “Part of the challenge is recognizing that sharing facts, sharing data is easy,” he says. “Unfortunately, who cares?

“It’s the same song over and over again: Tell human stories. You really need to figure out ways to impart that information on a human scale. How is it going to impact the listener? How is it going to impact the viewer?”

Here are the top four weaknesses by profession. (Respondents could make multiple selections.)

Internal communicators

  • Measuring the impact of your role: 50%
  • Reaching non-desk employees: 43%
  • Telling interesting stories about boring topics: 38%
  • Helping to improve your corporate culture: 37%

Public relations

  • Measuring the impact of your role: 50%
  • Telling interesting stories about boring topics: 36%
  • Proving to senior leaders the importance of your team’s work: 28%
  • (Three-way tie) Pitching journalists; adding video to your communications program; getting significant ROI with digital and social media advertising: 25%

Social media specialists

  • Measuring the impact of your role, 55%
  • (Tie) Getting significant ROI with digital and social media advertising; telling interesting stories about boring topics: 36%
  • Adding video to your communications program: 33%

Speechwriters

  • Telling interesting stories about boring topics: 63%.
  • (Tie) Measuring the impact of your role; writing creatively for business purposes: 50%.
  • Adding social media to your communications program: 38%

Media relations

  • Telling interesting stories about boring topics: 43%
  • Measuring the impact of your role: 41%
  • Earning media coverage for corporate stories: 33%
  • (Tie) Pitching journalists; adding video to your communications program: 28%

Marketers

  • Telling interesting stories about boring topics: 42%
  • Getting significant ROI with digital and social media advertising: 41%
  • Measuring the impact of your role: 37%
  • Adding video to your communications program: 34%

Human resources

  • Measuring the impact of your role: 50%
  • Writing creatively for business purposes: 38%
  • (Four-way tie) Communicating with senior leaders; adding video to your communications program; telling interesting stories about boring topics; proving to senior leaders the importance of your team’s work: 31%

Paine urges communicators of all stripes to stretch themselves when it comes to measurement.

“They’ve been measuring what’s easy,” she says, “and that’s not what’s valuable to senior leadership these days.”

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