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Communications Design

The key to designing measurable communications is to create a set of specific objectives, each of which is measurable, for a given communication.

At GuideStar Research, we use the Core-7 Communications Measurement Dimensions as a proven framework of what to measure. It is our starting point in developing measurable objectives for a given communication whether it's print, video, audio, manager-led communications, training, large group meeting or event, etc.

Developing Measurable Objectives
A measurable objective is a simple, single statement that identifies the specific item to be measured and quantifies the degree of attainment. Together, a set of objectives define what is to be accomplished by the communication.

For example, some objectives are: "Readers will be able to identify the three goals of the company as (goal 1), (goal 2) and (goal 3)." or "Viewers will be able to identify at least two reasons why the company's strategy of single-product focus is key to achieving market dominance." or "Attendees will have increased their confidence in the marketing program for (product) by at least 25%." or "A majority of distributors will increase their inventory investment by at least 10% over the prior year."

The more specific and clear the objectives are, the easier it is to design communications that accomplish them and to measure the degree of accomplishment. Defining communications objectives begins with research. Similar to marketing, communications also has its customers and customer segments, each with its own sets of needs and preferences.

There are always at least two sets of communications customers whose needs must be met; the sponsors/senders of a communication (internal clients, content resources, trainers, etc.) and the receivers/users or participants (readers, viewers, users, attendees, trainees, etc.). Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are used to identify and define customers' communications objectives.

Once the Core-7 objectives have been identified, the communication designers then draft a list of objectives. They write each objective in a statement form that includes the criteria for measurement of that objective with an eye towards the type of measurement or assessment that will be carried out after the communications have been implemented.

Unfortunately, most communications do not have objectives that are properly designed for measurement or assessment. They are developed from a set of very general objectives which, when measured, produce findings at such a global level that they are relatively useless and often self-serving and raising more questions than they answer.

In research and measurement, specific, precise questions that drill down into individual topics produce higher quality findings and more useful results. This is the kind of information that provides communicators with the insights and understandings needed to develop very specific communications and responses and ultimately, to produce powerful measurable results.

Creating Communications Using Measurable Objectives
It is much easier for writers, designers, etc. to apply their imagination and talents to a specific, clearly defined objective than to one that is very general. Creative professionals can really let their imaginations fly without doubts or inhibitions on a specific objective because their target is crystal clear. They know precisely what they're trying to achieve, and they go for it.

Once the creative team has the objectives in hand, they will invent, through brainstorming and other idea-generating techniques, creative solutions for each of the communications objectives and combine them in a variety of ways until the overall form and style of the communications emerges. Within the overall form (publication, meeting, video, etc.), individual creative solutions are linked together, each targeted at achieving its own specific objectives. These become the outline, filling out the flow and details of the communications.

Most often, this creative process produces three deliverables. The first is a set of measurable objectives. The second is a content outline. The third is a creative 'walkthrough' or treatment that describes the creative ideas and how they will work. Creative treatments often incorporate a variety of media (written materials, sketches and storyboards, graphics, music, models, etc.) to show not just how the creative concepts will work, but to capture the sense of them as well. They capture how they will look, feel, sound, etc.; in effect, what the communications will be like.

The Bottom Line: Efficient, Cost Effective, On-Target Creative Solutions
Because the communications design is customer-research driven and built on measurable objectives, there is nothing extraneous or superfluous in the communications, and no wasted production costs. Every element is focused on satisfying an important customer need. The client's budget is efficiently invested in achieving high-value results.


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