The Missing Link in Measurement: Knowing the Whos, Whats and Hows Is Essential to Communication Planning Research

Article excerpt

What troubles me about the research and measurement discussion today is that practitioners and researchers focus almost exclusively on evaluation rather than on planning.

I got into communication research because, early in my career, I found myself writing strategies for communication programs. I had an MBA and was good at linking communication goals to business goals. However, while I had, or could divine, the business goals of prospects and clients, there was a dearth of other information on which to base a good communication campaign.

For example, I rarely had a good definition of who the stakeholder group was. And even if I did, I had virtually no information about these people. What were their interests? What issues mattered to them? Why would they care about my client's product, service or proposition? And, very important for communication, what media did they use, and how? That is, what was the context in which they used specific media? What kind of information did they expect? Consider the difference between what you expect to see in a trade magazine, a hometown weekly newspaper, or a website or blog.

What's more, I rarely had very much information about the client or prospect. What were their written goals? What were the unwritten goals? These, frequently, are more important than the written ones. What was the client's business model, and how did the company make money? This is a critical question whether the organization is for-profit or not-for-profit--all organizations live on cash. I always found it much easier to understand the motivations of the organization and its leaders if I understood how the money flowed. What were the organization's business challenges? what was its competitive set? How was it managing the competition?

The final neglected body of knowledge necessary to put together a good communication program was information about the business environment. I was very fortunate in my studies at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University to take a class called Management and Its Environment, taught by Dr. …