Demonstrate your value

To prove your worth, connect to the business KPIs

Are you adding value? Of course you are. Most of us see our value to the organisation in our contribution to its soft assets: brand, reputation, culture … With these intangible assets being increasingly recognised today as the lion’s share in an organisation’s market value, it is not a bad place to be. It allows linking our communication work to business value. Or so it seems.

The real question, though, is different: Are you adding measurable value to your organisation? And, can you prove it? A must, when we want to be seen as the strategic business partner we aspire to be, one that deserves a seat at the decision table.

Proving our value and the business impact of our work urges us to step beyond our usual communication view. Beyond measuring outcomes, it challenges us to make business value the criterion against which we plan and measure our communication.

"Proving our value and the business impact of our work urges us to step beyond our usual communication view."

Measuring value has the advantage that it moves you away from the usual ROI discussion, which – in its purely financial definition – often is too limiting to reflect the full contribution that communication can bring. Business value, instead, tracked through a set of predefined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), allows you to plan, measure and report on performance from a longer-term value creation perspective, directly aligned with the executive agenda. More and more companies, therefore, look to integrate their communication activities with their organisation’s KPIs.

The Communication Value Framework© was developed to help the communication function take the lead in such an undertaking. Grounded in recent research and pioneering company practices, it is an instrument to steer and measure the business impact of communication. The framework focuses on KPIs and identifies where communication can play to impact them. It illustrates the correlation between communication exposure, outcomes created and business value captured.

The Communication Value Framework© is built up in six interconnected steps. Each comes with hands-on and robust tools to support integrated planning and reporting.

How does it work? At the core of the framework are six value drivers, both tangible and intangible, that communication can influence. Each value driver is tracked through business KPIs. Defining communication outcomes in view of those business KPIs helps to purposefully plan for business impact and report on business results. That strategic line-of-sight sets off a communication planning cycle that transforms a given business need or opportunity into value for the business. It also allows us to relate behavioural metrics to business metrics – a step we usually fail to take.

Depending on whether you take a strategic, operational or accountability perspective, the framework is an instrument to:

  • purposefully and knowingly plan for the most valuable business outcome (planning tool)
  • highlight what has worked and what hasn’t (diagnostic tool)
  • illustrate the business impact of a communication program (reporting tool)

So how can you integrate this new approach into your work today?

  • Bridge from business need/opportunity to business value. What value is the business expecting to gain? Depending on whether you play on reputation or human capital, your outcomes and metrics will be different.
  • Explore the KPIs that your business uses.
  • Define your communication outcomes in view of the agreed KPIs. Be specific. What is impacting this KPI and what can communication improve in this context?
  • Link your communication outcomes to behavioural metrics.
  • Create a strategic line-of-sight by correlating you behavioural metrics to business metrics.

To demonstrate your value, you need to measure your impact on the business. That, in turn, means placing “business value” and KPIs at the heart of your communication planning.

The Communication Value Framework© was presented by Inge Van Halst from van halst + vanderlinden in Geneva, Switzerland, at a Regional Debate of the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD). To find out how you can define KPIs for your communications work, contact inge at [email protected].

Find out more about the EACD here.

Image: Thinkstock


Inge Van Halst

Inge Van Halst (right in image) is a co-founder with Ariane Vanderlinden of van halst + vanderlinden, a Brussels and Zurich-based boutique consultancy specialised in helping organisations to identify and visualise how their communication activities create business value. Van halst + vanderlinden combines over 40 years of experience in international business and corporate communication.