BLIC BudgetIf you are planning for 2017, and developing your annual budget, here’s something for you to bear in mind: Next year at this time, you will be asked to show the return on the investment for the year.

By the way, that’s great. It means the internal communications function is taken seriously and is accountable to deliver results. However, it might make you feel uncomfortable, because you don’t know how to show the return on investment.

First, don’t panic.

There’s not a single answer to the return on investment question. What it means and the corresponding set of metrics to support that meaning will be different for each organization, depending on circumstances, communication scope and focus, the budget itself, and the strategic intent of the business.

Second, don’t put measurement off. If you do, you’ll be scrambling this time next year, when it’s too late to show that you know what you’re doing.

So right now, as you’re planning your budget for the year, think about two categories of measurement objectives—activity based and impact based.

Activity-based measurements are the easiest to track. You could monitor the types of, volume, and time required for messages sent, documents prepared, content written, and other supported channels, etc. So, essentially you’re measuring outputs and work hours. Evaluating these metrics helps you get a handle on productivity, which is very informative and may be valuable as you consider adding to or optimizing resources.

Impact-based metrics, however, have to do with outcomes. Impact considers quality, reach and effectiveness. It may include understanding, engagement and behaviors. Measuring impact is a little more involved. You will probably need to identify specifically what you want to know, establish a baseline, and then compare at a future predetermined time. A good way to start to approach identifying impact metrics is to have conversations with the subject matter experts who are involved with measuring brand perception, employee engagement and employee surveys in your organization. They may have ideas, or existing measurement channels for you to take advantage of.

And a word about intranet clicks, views, and visits: These measurements can assess the reach of the intranet as a channel; but be wary of using them to make a case for impact. Just because you have the data points doesn’t mean the data pertains to your measurement goals.

Continue with you budget planning for 2017, and be sure to include measurement plans now. Next year, you’ll be glad you did.