The control and evaluation of communication management is a top management concern. Therefore, controlling must be performed by the company's most senior communication personnel. This is because the company-specific definition of structures, methods and indicators for the planning, implementation and evaluation of corporate communications constructs a framework that significantly determines performance on the ground. A properly mapped basic route is the best basis for optimum utilization of creative potential. Without a proper map, communication efforts will stray off course and communicative and commercial targets may never be reached.

Establishing staff departments for support and advice

To keep pace with the increasing importance and complexity of the tasks concerned, it makes sense to institutionalize the support function within the company. Communication controllers as an institution then have the duty of professionalizing the function, developing it, and offering it as a pan-corporate service. The respective staff functions can be set up either in communications or in controlling departments. The employees in question must be well versed in business administration and evaluation processes and also have a good instinct for the particularities of creative processes. The necessary qualifications at the communications science-business administration interface are rare as of yet. Organizations that invest in acquiring the know-how can secure a competitive advantage.

Coaching from consultants and researchers

Although each company should operate a controlling system under their own responsibility, it may make very good sense to engage the services of consultants and the science community to ensure the implementation and further development of existing expertise. These services will tend to be in terms of coaching and assistance in the development of a suitable method mix. The commonly propagated standardized tools and indicator systems are not equal to resolving the stated issues, for basic reasons: success in a free market economy depends upon having a positioning that differs from that of rivals. Consequently, communication strategies, structures, methods and indicators for securing communicative success must also differ.

Involvement of evaluation service providers

Operative tasks in the course of implementation may be delegated to competent service providers, prime examples being evaluation and investigation of indicators. This is usually a more efficient and cost-effective option than the provision of such resources from within the company. A convenient and popular solution in practice is the performance of process and outcome evaluation by the PR agency appointed to conduct the respective campaign, etc. This results in the production of proofs of success in the form of numerous printouts, but it would be unreal to expect those responsible for implementation to engage in critical and objective reflection and judgment of their own work.

Against this background, there is ultimately no getting around the necessity of appointing special service providers and interpreting the results independently. Various service providers are available. These differ according to the task on hand and methods employed. The large opinion polling and market research institutes in Germany such as TNS Infratest, GFK etc. offer company-specific stakeholder survey and special integrated reputation measurement methods in addition to public opinion polls. Providers with a higher degree of specialization in corporate communications and related issues include PRIME Research, com.X, Brand Control, A & B. framework and others, which offer a variety of different tools. Finally, a number of service providers exist that are active to a greater or lesser extent in segments of communications controlling. Website usability tests and pretests on corporate media are offered by technologically adept internet consultants and universities with their own test labs. Low-cost internet or intranet surveys can be done with the help of specialists in online research. Other providers offer automated content monitoring of websites, newsgroups and blogs on the internet, and can thus generate indicators for issues and crisis management.

In practice, the most important role is undoubtedly played by media monitoring and media analysis service providers in Germany such as Cision, Landau Media, Ausschnitt, Medien Tenor, PMG Presse Monitor, Presswatch and others. They monitor press and radio coverage on a daily basis and produce printouts and clippings or more extensive content response analyses and benchmarks, providing numerous operative evaluations that can be used for communication controlling.

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