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What new possibilities does the concept of agility open up for successfully managing communication activities? Which methods help to align communication activities with the interests of the target groups? How does the measurement of communication success change when stakeholder interests are brought into focus?
Literature analysis of concepts of agility and of theoretical and practical perspectives on the evaluation of communication. Research period 2018.
Agility in communications management means the ability to respond proactively to developments in the organizational environment at short notice, regardless of long-term planning cycles. To this end, the agile communications manager takes into account attitudes and expectations on the stakeholder side, aligns his activities with them and can thus react quickly to changes and trends.
In her analysis of international professional studies, the author Betteke van Ruler shows that this is currently rarely put into practice:
Van Ruler therefore advocates an agile form of communication measurement that focuses on an open-ended alignment with the interests of stakeholders. Rather than simply measuring one's own performance, it is crucial to understand one's stakeholders, their attitudes towards the company and their expectations. The aim is to check the extent to which communication measures work from the point of view of the stakeholders and how they can be further developed and improved.
Consequently, successfully managing communication activities in times of agility and constant change means more than ever
For the specific practical implementation, van Ruler suggests roundtable discussions with stakeholders and the use of social media monitoring tools to discuss topics, trends and problem areas of the individual stakeholder groups, as well as to develop an understanding of the communication content with which the expectations of the stakeholders can be fulfilled.
The long-standing focus on performance KPIs (e.g. channel performance) is receding into the background and making room for a qualitative focus, aligned to the needs of the stakeholders. Benchmark becomes what the stakeholder thinks of the organization.
The greater stakeholder focus advocated by Betteke van Ruler is not new. It is historically an essential component of communication management, but in practice it is often lost sight of.
With her essay, van Ruler makes a valuable contribution to a holistic approach to the management, measurement and evaluation of communication from an agile perspective.
The change of perspective outlined in this paper can help communication managers to open their eyes to the really important questions that are critical to success. It expands the prevailing organisation-centric perspective of channel or campaign performance ("What do we want to achieve in terms of reach, attention, etc.?") and focuses on the consideration: "What do we need to do to meet the expectations and needs of our stakeholders?
In order to put this holistic perspective into practice, a comprehensive approach is required: integrated communications controlling that does not merely record the achieved reach and attention of communication activities, but is fundamentally geared to stakeholder expectations.
One-sided, purely channel-related evaluation measures or mere "success measurements" at the end of a campaign are no longer sufficient. It is true that reach and usage data continue to provide valuable orientation on how communication content is accepted. However, they must be continuously collected and reported and additionally supplemented by measurement methods that specifically record the opinions and expectations of stakeholders.
Such an integrated approach naturally makes data collection more expensive and time-consuming in the first instance. Professionally implemented, however, it makes it possible to implement communication in a truly stakeholder-oriented manner and to control the process of communication management in a truly agile manner, i.e. continuously, cyclically and in a targeted manner.
September 2019: Journal of Communication Management, Vol 23, No. 3 / Betteke Van Ruler: Agile communication evaluation and measurement
More information about the survey: Agile communication evaluation and measurement