Following on from Adeeba Hussain’s excellent guest blog on measuring the success of communication, this week I have decided to write about the importance of meaningful measures.
Whatever organisation you are part of, the way you evaluate your success and impact has to mean something to you. Simply copying the things that someone else measures will not add value to you.
This blog is my story of how I chose to measure success at Browning York.
In the beginning
To be completely honest, I didn’t start my journey as a freelance communication specialist with clear KPIs in mind. I knew I wanted to continue in the comms field after being unexpectedly made redundant due to a restructure.
But with an almost 3-year-old daughter to consider, I also knew that I didn’t want a full-time role that left me without quality time with her. Unable to find a part-time role doing what I loved, I decided to dip my toe in the water of freelancing and in the 10 years since, I have never (well, almost never) looked back.
I remember going to my first business training course and when we were asked what our goals were, feeling a bit sheepish about saying my aim was to work term-time only. (I had only added in the reference to terms at the last minute because I thought that made the goal sound more SMART!)
At that stage, this didn’t feel like a ‘proper’ business goal to me, so I was pleasantly surprised when my fellow trainees expressed their admiration for it.
Goals that work for me
At any given time over the 10 years I have been running Browning York Ltd, I have had a handful of goals pinned up on my office wall. These have covered a range of areas, from the number and types of clients I would like to work with to the kinds of projects I want to take on and the ways in which I would like to work.
I have discovered that broad goals inspire me more than SMART ones. As does writing them in bright colours, maybe throwing in some glitter to decorate the paper they are written on.
And I’ve also discovered that’s ok. If I’m inspired, that benefits my clients as much as it is good for me.
Of course, over the years my business has varied. I have always worked with charities, universities and not-for-profits, but the proportion in each category has varied, as have the types of projects I’ve been involved in.
As a result, I have developed skills, built up knowledge, met people and embraced opportunities that I could not always have predicted. If my goals and measures had been too tightly defined, I could easily have missed out on so much that has enhanced my business – and my life.
Technology and analysis mean that I am able to use data and related measures to look at how my business is doing. It is particularly helpful to identify content which my audience is interested in, to make sure I’m adding value. And to take that a step further to look at what else could aid them to achieve their goals.
But of course, data is only useful if you have bigger picture context to use it within. If I didn’t know who I want to add value to and how I might help them solve problems, the data would be pretty much meaningless.
Looking back over the years, I realise that I have nailed that early measure. I refined and finessed it over time, especially realising that the Easter, Christmas and half-term holidays are short enough to adopt a mix and match approach to working.
I have taken almost every August off and the summers when I did do some work came about through conscious decisions to take on a really interesting project with a very specific timeframe. Having an awesome childminder and supportive family and friends really helped.
Now my just-turned-13 daughter is at secondary school and things have changed again. I am looking at where and how I can add value to my clients now. The meaningful measures I use to make sure that I am succeeding are yet to be developed. But I know that they will be firmly grounded in what is important to me and the difference I can make for my clients in an uncertain future.
What meaningful measures are or will you be adopting at your organisation? I’d love to hear.
Until next time