Monday, February 2

Measuring Communication: Intent, Part 2 (ROC)

Last week, we presented Measuring Communication: Intent, Part 1 as part of the exploration of the ROC abstract. While that post focused on the mission statement, it takes much more than a mission statement and its various counterparts (purpose, vision, core values) to establish clear communication objectives and define communication intent.

The reason is simple. While mission statements often present the qualities or characteristics of organizations, they do not necessarily define how that organization interacts with the world around it and tend to change at much slower pace than the needs of organization and the needs of communication. They are generally not the best verbatim message for an organization.

In other words, stating a mission statement might even be likened to saying one expresses empathy. It's not meant to be said. It's meant to be demonstrated. For this reason, other strategic planning processes must also be considered to effectively establish the objectives of communication. These methods help move beyond having a foundation and toward establishing guidelines for how this foundation wants to interact with the world around it.


SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture.

• Strengths Defines the attributes of an organization that are helpful.
• Weaknesses Defines the attributes of the organization that are harmful.
• Opportunities Considers external conditions where objectives can be expanded.
• Threats Considers external conditions that could damage the business.

SWOT Benefits: Introspective Analysis, Set Organizational Goals, Unique Selling Points, Short Term

While many references claim there is no point of origin, SWOT was primarily developed by Albert Humphrey, a business and management consultant who specialized in organizational management and cultural change, as part of a research project at Stanford University. It was originally referred to as SOFT.

At Procter & Gamble (P&G), for example, the organization had become complacent after a long period of market dominance. In fact, in the 1980s, it almost lost market dominance. Recognizing this, management realized that in order to retain market dominance, it needed to create a more "nimble organization and to increase the speed and quality of innovation. (Davila, Epstein, & Shelton, 2006)."

The result was the development of an aggressive play-to-win strategy that was encapsulated in its corporate moto “Touching Lives, Improving Life.” However, when you look at the full product line at P&G, you might notice there are many other product- and market-centric messages that reinforce its communication.


Core message systems, which we will refer to as CORE, is a message development process used to evaluate existing and potential internal and external communication in order to identify, determine, and develop specific key messages that will resonate in the marketplace. It has also proven useful in developing core values.

The core messaging process was originally developed by the Leadership Institute, a training organization for public policy leaders founded in 1979 by Morton C. Blackwell. We employ an evolved model at our company, and this only includes the initial evaluation portion of the process.

• Internal Sources. Captures organization stakeholder messages to internal and external publics.
• External Messages. Captures what other industry organizations are saying to external publics.
• Public Feedback. Captures communication from competitors, detractors, and customers about the organization.
• Stakeholder Response. Captures what the organizations stakeholders might say about competitors and detractors.

CORE Benefits: External Awareness, Consensus Building, Contrast Points, Consistent Messaging, Short to Mid Term

We've been involved in dozens of CORE sessions that range from candidates and small start-ups to major corporations and international organizations. Without revealing specific clients, some examples include: helping a national pool builder break away from price point modeling typical in the industry and shifting to a message of reliability; breaking a technology service provider away from industry stereotypes and establishing a culture of friendly professional service; assisting a nonprofit organization transform its "feel good" messaging into a return on investment message for the state it served.

Simply put, the CORE message analysis process rediscovers assets that already exist within the company and then prioritizes those assets based on the environment in which it operates. Done properly, the resulting messages communicate tangible contrasts (beyond unique selling points) between the company and various competitors.

Real Time Communication

While there are many methods, real time (RT) messaging, in this instance, pertains to messages that fall outside of normal communication parameters. With the possible exception of SWOT on occasion, short- and long-term communication do not generally include for specific situational events.

Since this section on real time communication (or immediate response) is a compilation of communication processes such as crisis communication, disaster response, social media, or other immediate conflicts as they occur, the following is only meant to provide a baseline evaluation.

• Situation Analysis. Evaluate the situation or event, with an emphasis on collecting all known facts.
• Determine Impacts. Determine the potential impact of these facts, including public perception.
• Synchronize Messages. Define and synchronize messages specific to the crisis or event taking place.
• Designate Spokespeople. Designate a spokesperson, recognizing that the messenger is part of the message.
• Collect Feedback And Adjust. Provide for mechanisms that collect immediate feedback and adjust communication.

RT Benefits: Event Specific, Consistent Message, Crisis Sensitive, Flexible, Immediate

There are dozens of examples that show how better real time communication could have benefited companies and organizations on this blog. In almost every case, the proper implementation of situational communication demonstrates why crisis outcomes and communication breakdown are seldom related to what organizations do, but rather how they respond to what occurred.

RT communication is also becoming more pervasive as companies adopt social media as a communication tool. Daily success often relies on how well the communicators can make minute-by-minute situational assessments.

Tying the mission statement to strategic planning methods.

Any or all of these strategic methods are influenced and can influence the ever-present communication offered by a mission statement. In some cases, depending on the outcome of these evaluations, they may even indicate when a mission statement has become outdated and requires refinement. However, in defining communication intent, what is most important to consider is that these strategic methods, together with the mission statement, define the objectives of the communication.

Next Monday, we will present how to define the tactical portion of intent, which begins by understanding the specific purpose of an individual communication component or campaign.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.



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