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Your First Communications & Marketing Dashboard

By CASE District I

Dave Nuscher

By Dave Nuscher

With one step—we all know that’s how the journey of a million miles begins.

You are excited about the task of developing analytics for your communications and marketing program. But the work looks daunting: what is that first step?

In communications and marketing spaces, in particular—whether it be social, digital marketing, PR, Google Analytics—the number of available measures is dizzying and grows all the time.

As one example, the social media management service that we use at Tufts has scores of available measures across the social platforms. Anyone who has spent five minutes with Google Analytics knows the same is true there as well.

In the early days of your own efforts, where should you start?

When building your program from scratch, particularly on a low (or nonexistent) budget, it can be helpful to remember that, when it comes to measurement, more can often be less.

In fact, don’t start with the numbers/available metrics at all. Rather, step back from what’s available and decide or reconfirm with your leadership the near- and long-term objectives for your entire group. The more focused this list, the better: the key is to tightly align the numbers available to you with the objectives you have set for your organization.

For example, with the content you are producing, is your objective to increase engagement among constituents? From that, then, look at the functional areas and specific roles within your department. Consider the tools available to each of these functions (e.g., Sprinklr for your social team, GA to measure the volume of social sharing on your website). Then, review the metrics available within your tools and assess which ones are the closest proxies for engagement.

As you look for those proxies, keep in mind that you do not need metrics with which you or your stakeholders are most familiar. The clear example is the number of Facebook likes (or, just as true, Twitter followers). Sure, this is a number readily understood by colleagues to whom you might be presenting. But it is much more telling to do your assessment at the level of the individual posts and tweets and the ways in which your audiences are engaging with that content.

Metrics are designed to answer questions and inform direction. To save precious time and money, keep at bay those vanity metrics that accomplish neither of these goals. Also beware the numbers to which you cannot (or do not plan to) manage.

Within these guidelines, be flexible about what you measure. It’s true: you will limit the long-term narrative you can build from your metrics if you change the numbers too often. However, when you find that a metric on which you have focused is not advancing you towards your objectives, consider some refreshing.

Also consider is the limitations of the numbers you gather. You know that Google Analytics is good at illuminating trends in your digital content. However, for truly meaningful insights about what is possible on your website, you are well served to construct focused, time-limited experiments that allow measurement against your trends and benchmarks. This is one way to empower you to monitor whether, for example, those new content marketing tactics you are using have been able to move the needle or not.

A final consideration may be the most important one of all: be sure you are not the only one prepared for the world of measurement. From the very beginning, collaborate fully with your colleagues and stakeholders. Discuss what you propose to measure and why, and with whom at your school or college you propose to share the information. Keep the dialogue going. Share internally before sharing broadly. Just as “there’s no I in team,” there’s no I in “dashboards of the measurement of our shared efforts,” either.

Dave Nuscher is Senior Director of Operations and Planning, University Communications and Marketing, Tufts University

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