Communications 101: Why Measurement Matters

blue bowl filled with spaghetti and garlic bread

The term “throwing spaghetti at a wall” refers to knowing when pasta is cooked. If it sticks, it’s done.

The thing is, I’m not a fan of having sticky pasta all over my kitchen walls. I follow directions and hope for the best. But that doesn’t always work out either, because there are variables. Does my pot conduct heat evenly? Did I set the timer? How fresh is the pasta? What if it’s gluten-free? Does altitude matter?

Throwing spaghetti at a wall is an accurate way to describe how many organizations approach communications. The results are about as good as when I serve undercooked pasta or throw overcooked pasta in the trash. It’s a waste of time and money, and a bit embarrassing when cooking for an audience.

Similarly, spraying communications from an uncontrolled firehose is not only wasteful, but in many cases, unethical. A nonprofit that operates on donor dollars and grant money has a duty to operate as efficiently as possible. Successful corporations don’t stay successful by bleeding money or failing to achieve strategic goals, which is what happens in any communications department that isn’t measuring impact.

Effective communicators plan first and communicate later. They ask questions. They determine WHAT goals or objectives they need to achieve, WHO their target audience(s) is, WHY they need to communicate, HOW they should reach their target audience and WHEN is the right time to do it. They establish benchmarks and goals before communicating. Savvy communicators track progress closely so they are able to adjust tactics and messaging as they go to improve results and learn how to do it better the next time. As a communicator, when you’ve done this enough, you’re also able to respond quickly in crisis mode, as we all know the spaghetti hits the fan, often on a Fridays at 4:45 p.m.

Take the time to establish S.M.A.R.T. goals. They are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. Unlike throwing spaghetti at a wall, this approach sets your organization up for success. You are communicating with purpose. It will also make you come out looking like a top chef when you provide data that shows off your efficient, strategic approach to mixing the perfect blend of ingredients and dishing up precisely what your boss, investors, or donors (and audience) ordered.

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