In the UK we produce as much in five days as it takes the French only four. We suffer from LPS – Low Productivity Syndrome.
But solving our productivity crisis is not straightforward. If you produce things or products, then it may be more soluble: where we might have turned out 100 widgets a day, now if 120 emerge, then that’s a straight 20% increase.
In comms, it’s not so simple. Yes, we can measure the number of news releases we send out, the number of tweets, the number of new followers, even the number of strategies or campaigns we produce, but unless they result in outcomes that those who employ us actually value then we may be simply creating more stuff.
Leaders have the same issue if they stick to simple metrics. Simply attending more meetings, writing more strategies or briefing more executive members will not necessarily result in greater productivity. In fact, in that sphere more activity can be counter productive. In areas where the focus is on outcomes (those that really matter), productivity can be harder to measure.
Getting back to basics might help us – restating the central point of comms. For me, the key outcomes in comms focus on changing what people know, feel, do or perceive. Who those “people” are will change depending upon the brief.
But it’s also a lot to do with understanding the counterfactual: what would otherwise happen if comms were not engaged?
And that’s about additionality. A leader may be on the point of putting out a strategy paper laden with reputational risks. Their inability to see others’ points of view and the potential hostages to fortune that their loose wording has potentially created means that without the intervention of a savvy comms person, they would spend days or even weeks trying to explain away their errors. Comms’ additionality could be measured in terms of what this intervention was able to prevent.
Similarly, comms involvement in designing behaviour changing campaigns that result in changing the nature of demand for a service could relieve pressure and allow money to be spent elsewhere. Again, counterfactually, without comms involvement, money may have been wasted and inappropriate demand might have continued to soar.
But unless we are able to focus on the actual value of our interventions and activities in terms of the measurable difference that we are able to make in comms, it’s hard to measure productivity meaningfully at all. Simply producing more stuff in less time won’t necessarily tell us anything.
So if you want to find out how you can be more productive, focus on your current Return on Investment. The equation should be simple enough: what are you able to do in any given week in delivering the measurable outcomes that matter to your organisation? And if you want to be 20% more productive, what would you have to change in your behaviour or what would have to change in the organisation to enable you to be more so?
The mantra “do more for less” still applies. The key is to do more of what matters to the people who pay us. And if you can do 21% more, then you’ll be out-performing the French.
For more from Mark Fletcher-Brown, visit www.reputationcounsel.net