Data is your Moneyball

26 February 2024

We all remember book-turned-film Moneyball right? The underdog story where hardcore data analysis enabled a baseball team on a seriously tight budget to identify undervalued talent and compete with the big dogs? Well your (often under-resourced) internal communications team is the baseball team, and data is going to change the game.  

 We don’t really need to make a business case for data and measurement – the vast majority of IC professionals know it’s important. Except they don’t. The most recent data (data gathered from the IC community) shows data still isn’t seen to be that important for IC. In the 2024 State of the Sector Gallagher report, improving measurement and evaluation doesn’t even make the top three IC priorities (coming in at number five).   

But why? 

The same Gallagher report, corroborated by the Workshop Internal Communications Trends report, found that demonstrating value and ROI is proving to be a significant challenge for internal communicators. And they found internal communicators with the greatest influence, those who act strategically and not just as an advisor, use smart measurement as proof points to get stakeholders on board. You do the math. 

 Here are four reasons why data should be a top priority for you this year.  


Hold your place at the table 

During Covid, internal communications became a critical function to keep people safe, secure and operations running. At the time, the industry buzz was how internal communicators suddenly had a seat at the table with decision makers. In 2024, we’re having to work hard to hold that space with greater onus to prove ROI and value, let alone creating space for innovation and improvements.  

The data you capture doesn’t have to be complex, you just need consistency and context. Benchmarking can be helpful, but it doesn’t allow for the nuance and situation of your particular organisation; baselining can be more useful. Be consistent in tracking the key analytics you’re interested in and compare yourself with yourself across time. Not all intranets or social suppliers have analytics beyond 6 months, so you may need to enhance your pre-loaded analytics suite.  


Go from advisor to strategiser  

Strategic communicators are better at influencing employee understanding (Gallagher). They can see the bigger picture and understand the depth of communications in an organisation’s systems, they connect the dots between initiatives and across functions bringing that holistic view into focus. They also tend to go beyond simple ‘output’ metrics – likes, comments, opens etc. Communication doesn’t end when you hit send, to really know if your comms are hitting you need to find ways to register behaviour change, shift in sentiment, understanding and glean complementary qualitative data from your desired audience.  

Using data and making it accessible – i.e. telling the story of your communications – will improve your influence with senior leaders and engender trust. And guess what? Having that deep, connected understanding of comms, being trusted by leaders and working with a holistic purpose is good for you. Strategic communicators reported higher wellbeing than their advisory counterparts. Using data can help you make the move from advisor to strategiser.   


Avoid the comms void  

Sometimes it can feel like you’re shouting into the void, and honestly sometimes you are. Committing even a small amount of time to tracking and understanding not just engagement with channels and content but also behaviour change and sentiment will give you the information you need to just, stop. Data isn’t just a proof point for a business case, it also offers justification to stop what’s not working and to amplify what is. Putting your time and resources into initiatives that work or innovating for better, whilst trimming the fluff is only ever good for your organisation: clarity of messaging = aligned teams = strategy and culture in action. 


Give the people what they want! Not what you think they want 

Making data led decisions means you don’t have to rely on your ‘gut feel’ or anecdotal word from the water cooler. We also all have our ‘go to people’ for comms, the ones who are genuinely enthusiastic and happy to participate in a people piece. This leaves us open to self-selection bias, and is not representative of the wider workforce. Data helps us see the ‘invisible’, the people who aren’t engaged or responsive, and to creatively and proactively find ways to reach them.    

It’s important to note, however, that data is not bias free. The types of questions we ask and the language we use are always socially encoded in some way, and when creating feedback opportunities it’s crucial to scrutinise how you’re asking and what you want to find out. Be sure to get input into your survey from a range of different people, and if relevant go to your internal network leads for advice.  

We all know data and measurement is important, but we need to all recognise it’s really pressing! ‘Refreshing my IC strategy’ was the second top priority for communicators this year (Gallagher), but how can you effectively do that without the numbers to make smart decisions? Whether you like baseball or not, numbers can give us the competitive advantage we need to play in the big leagues – both for your organisation and your own career. 


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