AB Thinks  →  12th July 2019

Throwing paper aeroplanes in the dark

Sometimes it is not hard to see what holds back internal communications. I was sitting in a meeting yesterday helping to plan a client’s new content strategy. We should have started by interrogating the intelligence on this audience. Even basic data would have been helpful. Who is reading what? At what times of the day? On what devices? But the client’s content was being published on an intranet, one of the many where such data either does not exist, is impenetrable or unreliable.

These days AB is creating more and more content for both an internal and external audience – employees and alumni; sales teams and their key clients; internal and external influencers. This throws into stark relief the differences between internal and external platforms.

Logic tells us the effectiveness of what is communicated internally should be best understood. After all, with internal communication, this is our content, readers are our people, often using our devices, accessing platforms we built, own and maintain. Any reasonable person might expect us to understand who is reading what merely by giving our analytics a cursory glance.

But too often we send out communications like someone throwing paper aeroplanes in the dark.

Some stories catch a prevailing wind and fly round our organisations catching everyone’s attention. Inevitably, others nosedive as soon as we hit ‘publish’. But try telling one from another.

IC professionals know the collection, analysis and reporting of intranet data, for example, would optimise the performance of their content and help them make better editorial decisions. But we simply don’t have the data.

Contrast this with the analytics we now expect – and get – from external platforms.  LinkedIn shows me real-time visitor traffic and demographic trends across different time periods. With Twitter I get the measure of every word, photo, video and follower.

I often joke it’s disappointing Mailchimp’s analytics don’t tell me which newsletter readers are left-handed and glucose intolerant. It gives me statistics on everything else.

Here at AB, we are finally seeing the end of internal platforms that do little more than distribute content. One of the very first questions we ask every client before building a channel or platform is what do you want to learn? Because delivering the message is only the half story. Communicators need to know what happened next – rich, insightful data that tells us exactly where every plane is landing and even predicts future flight patterns. That way, deeper, more profound audience relationships are finally within our grasp.

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