Deciding how much media measurement to share with senior leadership can be a dilemma for communications leaders. The media monitoring systems most teams use can produce many metrics, but how much of the data is worthy of a C-Level discussion?

In our conversations with numerous teams across many industries, we’ve observed three models for reporting to the C-Suite and Board:

  1. Some teams don’t do any formal reporting of media metrics, or they keep whatever they prepare internal to the team.
  2. Others circulate a few macro statistics, such as clip count trends, cumulative reach, or average tonality and include titles and mastheads from the more prominent stories.
  3. The remainder share a much deeper analysis of coverage: topics and campaigns of special importance, impact achieved, how results supported goals, competitive/peer bench-marking, and other factors. The best of these reports also tie the coverage to broader company initiatives and goals, corporate reputation, or other dimensions of interest to senior executives (a subject for a coming post).

Here are some takeaways we’ve derived from our work with many of America’s leading companies:

No External Reporting

In today’s business environment, most departments quantify their results. Executives in IT, finance, marketing, operations, and sales all manage their organizations using relevant metrics. In this context, we have had more than one communications executive confide in us that they feel like they are always behind their peers when they cannot show similarly compelling data in management meetings. One said, “Without that, I’m concerned we won’t have a seat at the table.”

Teams shunning measurement entirely also miss out on opportunities to use data to be more effective. Who wouldn’t want to know, for example, which of the messages you’re putting out are generating passion and engagement among readers, and which are flat-lining? This is just one example of the practical, actionable data that many communications teams are using to hone their strategy. We’ll elaborate on this in a future post.

Limited Macro Reporting

Broad measures such as clip volumes, average tonality, and some share of voice measures can give a general feel for performance. But they often raise more questions than they answer when presented to senior executives that are accustomed to drilling into data. And when there’s no clear connection between metrics and business goals, even executives who are shown a positive trend may question whether it is all that meaningful – and perhaps privately doubt whether success is being measured the right way.

Topic-level Metrics Connected to Business Priorities

Those of our clients who share deeper topic-level analysis with senior leadership feel this strategy has built significant credibility for their team. By accurately quantifying results and tying them to important issues and themes, reporting becomes more relevant to senior leadership. A thoughtful framework for tracking and evaluating results also shows that the team is systematically managing toward clear objectives – and is equipped to quickly identify problems and respond with adjustments when necessary. 

At times, teams considering more granular reporting are concerned that it may highlight unfavorable trends. Periodically, some part of the communication plan won’t go as well as hoped, and the data will likely show this. However, most executives we know don’t blame the team in this scenario. Quite the opposite – they appreciate when the team proactively identifies challenges and discusses plans to respond. Teams that clearly define their goals and then objectively report on both disappointments and successes gain credibility and autonomy in our experience.

The Bottom Line

Even if you’re not being asked for deeper, more analytical reporting (or perhaps any reporting at all!), you should consider proactively introducing it anyway. Our experience is that thoughtful metrics foster the type of fact-based dialogue that C-level executives favor. They also allow you to better frame your team’s strategy and results – and to build credibility and support at senior levels. In a world of frequently shifting organizational priorities, budget battles, and high turnover, those are valuable assets.

Chris Bolster is a Managing Partner at PublicRelay. 

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