Being measured on how well we’re doing, as individuals, organisations or across the whole public sector – is now commonplace. In fact, we expect it. People want to know where public money goes and they have a view about whether it’s a wise or ill-advised spend. Long gone are the days when the only probing questions were from a journalist with a good lead.
Thankfully, there’s lots of great work going on to address this, and while some of it’s prompted by policy or nudged by law, I don’t think there are many who would disagree that greater transparency is absolutely the right thing to do. Take a look at any NHS website, there’s reams of stuff – from board papers, to annual reports, quality accounts and lists of payments (though all of these aren’t always easy to find). Personally, I love what Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has done – they’re totally up front about openness.
Now here’s the irony. While communications professionals are usually the ones advising on how best to make data accessible, we haven’t traditionally been great at measuring our own effectiveness. Up until recently, the main industry method was crude – we worked out how many column inches our proactive work produced and then translated it into its advertising value equivalent (known as AVE). It only ever really worked with positive coverage and even then, was pretty blunt.
So it’s great that NHS communications is starting to get to grips with how we demonstrate value – aided significantly by technological advances that simply weren’t there 15 years ago. It’s not easy to find evidence but Leeds Teaching Hospitals is doing it and so are we.
And we’re doing it for a range of reasons – it helps us measure ongoing work and campaigns, it helps us plan and prioritise and it gives our work credibility in the boardroom. Most importantly, it helps us to work out the return on investment, so we can discover if the campaign was worth doing in the first place.
It’s still embryonic but as an ambitious team of three, it’s our starting point and way of showing the value our work brings to the public purse. Every month, we split down our activity into print, broadcast and social media, internal and external communications – matching input against outcome measures. It’s not easy but we’re learning and improving it month on month – based on feedback and benchmarking.
I’d love to hear your views.