Tracking offline comms channels in Google Analytics

Google AnalyticsWhen it comes to evaluating staff communication campaigns, we have to look at both online and offline channels. Using Google Analytics campaign tracking we can capture activity on the intranet as a result of clicks in emails and documents that are sent out to staff.

There are a few loopholes when tracking in Google Analytics (GA) for example, linking directly to a PDF document or linking to other documents from within a document (the russian doll effect), but GA can track pretty much most of the activity that happens on the intranet including tracking offline traffic sources.

I blogged a few weeks ago about the overbearing transformation campaign in the workplace, but there are many smaller campaigns that go on as part of the daily business, which may or may not form part of the larger programme. Not having any platform for social media in our IT setup, email is still a big channel for staff communications. Most of the comms will link back to the intranet where the meaty content lives. From here, staff can get HTML pages, documents and the odd bit of video to support the communication. It is this core intranet content that should ideally be the finally destination of any communications campaign.

For a long time, I have been campaigning to tag non-digital channels such as email and PDF documents with campaign tracking code that will feed back into GA. It’s nice to see that our corporate comms team are now doing this consistently with their campaigns. It has been hard to get these non-technical colleagues to add the bit of tracking code to the end of links in emails and documents. It’s hard enough getting the right URL. But Google have an online URL builder that makes the job easier and seems to be working wonders with the consistency of the campaign tracking.

The data from offline comms is now flowing through to GA and we can now realise the benefits of spending that little bit of time in adding the tracking code. By tallying-up with the original amount of mail sent, we can produce some statistics on click-through rates, visit duration, bounce rates etc. For campaigns that link back to intranet news stories, we can measure online votes against the different channels.

I’ve been reading a bit online recently about how relevant votes really are on intranet pages, and I agree to a point. Our news stories are written in the same format, in the same tone and all that changes is the content, both the written word and photographic content. I do believe that our system of “more like this” and “fewer like this” can help our editors in segmenting content themes and audience types (through campaign tracking), producing some concrete intelligence.

Of course we can’t evaluate whether behaviours or opinions have changed using GA. We need surveys and other means to do that. But we can see that people are visiting the core intranet content and how long they are spending there – as a result of the non-digital channels. Put this with data from direct intranet traffic and we can get a more-rounded picture of communications campaigns.

You need to be consistent with tags that you use for the campaign name, source and medium. If you stick to a plan then the results in GA will be more useful.

Non-digital campaign tracking in Google Analytics
Non-digital campaign tracking in Google Analytics

Interpreting the results is not foolproof. Going back to the news story example, it may be difficult to get good timings if staff are just being directed to a news story and there is nothing to do on the HTML page such as download a document or go to the core intranet content. GA will track a start time but will not track an end time and will consequently result in a bounce.

If a comms email contains a list of links to news stories then the second news story clicked will end the timing for the first story clicked, the third will end the second and so on. Meaning that the last story clicked will result in a bounce and won’t be included in timings. Communications and news stories should ideally link to the core intranet content where there is something to do, more information to find, a form to download or a supporting document to read.

As I prepare to start my new job at Helpful Technology I leave our comms team thinking about using GovDelivery to send staff emails. I blogged previously on our success with GovDelivery email alerts and newsletter management and, since writing, the system has been constantly improved. Using it internally would also provide great reporting on campaigns. I won’t have the chance to post about the outcome of this but you may find more in due course at http://www.govdelivery.co.uk

If I were an internal communicator…

Across the whole organisation there is a massive transformation programme running to save money and improve services. It’s been cooking since before the spending review in various guises. Internal campaigns having come and gone and are making a comeback. How successful will they be this time?

Previous campaigns have been lacking in real content but filled with flashy logos, artwork and names, sweetie, names. Developed by internal comms people who think they work in a PR agency, the relentless promotion of the programme name and logo swiftly goes the way of banner adverts blinking at you from the top of a web page. You just switch off.

The comms strategy this time round is not much different and continues to promote the brand and programme everywhere possible, including (the declining) news stories on the intranet, engagement and ideation projects, television channels at HQ, staff magazines, gung-ho groups, email newsletters and the intranet homepage. And again, there is very little substance in terms of meaningful information.

We’ve been here before and I remember being so annoyed last time that I mocked up a new intranet homepage with a massive programme logo filling the screen, leading to a page which said “more information coming soon.” Constantly being told to “change, save money and transform” like a stuck record when it’s not clear what you are expected to do does not make for a successful campaign.

In traditional project management, back in the day, I remember project managers appearing with their mile long Gantt charts and proudly slapping them on the table. Of course, everyone around the table is thinking “What’s in it for me? Where’s my bit?” and it only becomes useful when broken down into the bits and pieces that affect you. Bitesize user stories make sense.

A few weeks ago, strategically placed while I’m queuing for coffee, I saw a wide popup display that looked pretty similar to those old project management charts. Branded with the fabulous programme logo, naturellement. Lines and milestones going left to right, up and down the length of the coffee queue with diddy writing that I can’t read. And curious about this monstrosity that had been created, I walked, as one does between paintings in a gallery, from end to end of the display, trying to work it out. The years run from 2010 into the future across the top. Down the left are 20 or 30 items with different colour codes and writing so small that you need to get up very close in order to read it, meaning that you lose orientation from the bigger picture. And it’s all so high-level and overarching that none of it means anything. Disengage. Switch off. #fail

The same spawn-of-gantt-monster appeared later in a multi-page PDF document to go on the intranet, with a caveat not to make the document printable. So now it’s impossible to make sense of if you try to read it on screen, and you lose all hope of being able to understand it should you actually want to print it. But hey, it’s been communicated. Tick!

We know from email marketing that audience segmentation gets the best click through rates. We know that analysing data by splitting into chunks is more meaningful than looking at the big picture. We know that projects work best by breaking down into bitesize pieces. If I were tasked with communicating the programme to the organisation I would break down the programme, section off the tasks and priorities that affect my different audiences and communicate tailored messages to each audience segment. So that as a member of staff, when I get a message, it’s personal to me. It affects the building I work in, the department or team that I work in. It calls for my expertise in helping with a specific problem. It engages me.

Of course if it were possible to use digital solutions to engage staff without being hampered by out of date IT platforms and restrictive information security policies then my campaign could be even more effective. But let’s concentrate on the things that we can change.

Internal communications is more than designing a pretty logo, sending an email or shoving a document on the intranet and ticking a box to say that the you have communicated. Senior managers should demand evaluation, proof and statistics to show that something is happening as a result of the comms. And sending a survey that asks whether I’ve heard of the programme really doesn’t glean any business intelligence. Of course I’ve heard of the programme – I get spammed with it at every opportunity.

Apologies to @sharonodea for the #keepcalm reference – just seemed appropriate.

How we increased feature news traffic by 53%

At the start of October we introduced the next step in our strategy to improve engagement with news stories on the intranet. A month later we are seeing a 53% increase in traffic.

I had a good hunch that introducing the box would generate *some* interest, but I was amazed by the results at the end of just one month. Pageviews for news stories climbed from 44,185 to 67,872. Similar to Google Adwords, simple text adverts, when placed in context, can be effective.

This increase in news story traffic started when we introduced a “Related stories” advert box, placed top-right of feature news pages. Nothing clever. It’s a simple text box containing a bulleted list of links to past stories.  A maximum of 3 links, with something in common between them all.

Related news

It’s a manual process for our intranet news editor (yes we just have the one!) to link up the relevant back-stories. We publish at least one, usually two feature stories every day, timed to coincide with our peak news readership periods (elevenses and late lunch) aiming to give a sense of steady momentum to the homepage news stream. Our feature news is varied, with stories from the front-line to seasonal pieces to interviews with board members.

The recent enhancement is a great success for my internal communications colleagues. For them, it suggests an increase in reach and shows that staff are interested enough to want to browse through back-stories to get the news behind the news, creating a richer picture. Being practical, we’d like it if staff had already read these stories, but related stories give us a second chance to increase coverage and helps staff to discover articles that they would not otherwise find. Over time, the ripples should start to run through our news collection as more and more stories backlink and crosslink to each other.

I blogged in August on our plans to introduce social functions on intranet news stories. I stress again that we are doing this on a limited HTML/Javascript platform with no fancy programming or databases. We already have a basic *Like* function. Related stories is the second feature to dripfeed into the mix. Next up are *Share with a colleague* and *Comments*…

Intranet redesign, Phase 6: communications, launch and evaluation

Familiarisation

To help staff become acquainted with the new look and feel and functionality before the launch, we published a set of *intranet familiarisation* videos, using the new intranet template, and linked them from the existing intranet via a feature story.

Familiarisation

In the month before launch we scheduled several intranet feature articles detailing the forthcoming launch. Our in-house design team created a flyer insert for our monthly staff magazine and we let our stakeholders know through email bulletins and newsletters. We published a final intranet article as we broke up for Christmas holidays saying bye bye to the old intranet.

Launch

I was very proud to press the button on New Year’s Day which would set the CMS in motion, publishing the new homepage, the news section and linking to all newly migrated content. It was then time to sit back and wait for the response from staff.

We had managed to migrate all of the content except for some older news stories and we were busy pedalling away in the background as the new intranet went live to staff.

Post-launch

There was an eerie silence after the launch. Business as usual. No cries of joy and no rotten tomatoes. Staff were just getting on with it. Hopefully our comms and familiarisation helped to bed them in a little.

Evaluation

The average time spent in a visit to the intranet has fallen from an average 2 mins 30 down to 1 min 20 since the launch. We’ve almost halved the time that staff take in a typical visit to the intranet. I’m optimistically reading this as evidence to show that they are finding and digesting information faster. Hopefully the improved navigation, legibility and layout are having an effect.

Uptake for feature news has almost doubled since the launch and is steadily rising. All the time spent in planning the news delivery was worth it.

Feature news content shows a steady increase in pageviews since the launch
Feature news content shows a steady increase in pageviews since the launch

Around 3 months after launch, we evaluated the *usability and design* benchmark as part of our annual IBF review. We also used Customer Carewords again to run the intranet staff satisfaction survey. See my previous blog posts for the results:

Evolution

Since launch, the intranet has changed and adapted, due to requests for new content and campaigns, issues highlighted by analytics reports and recommended actions from benchmarking evaluation reports.

One glaring problem that came out of our benchmarking report this year was that although I had done a lot of testing with the navigation to ensure staff could find their way around the intranet, I had not paid so much attention to the task of downloading a document. In the new intranet, downloads such as PDF and DOC files were listed in the right hand column. However, staff (rightly so) saw this column as links that would take them elsewhere – *related information*. As a result, they often missed the links to the documents. So we’ve been working to remedy this, moving download links to the body section of the page, in context.

I feel now that the intranet has reached a level where further enhancements can dripfeed through, rolling out small improvements and developments one at a time. Although the intranet is alive and constantly changing, this redesign project gave it a much needed kick in the butt to bring it into a state where no further big bang launches are necessary.

Other intranets within the organisational group have adopted the new design template and this is a good first step in providing a unified experience across our family of intranets.The intranet has come a long way, but work doesn’t stop. There is always room for improvement, as well as trying to keep up with what’s happening out on the web and constant changes and restructures within the organisation. I blogged previously that we are currently working to introduce more engagement functions on news stories, including *Like*, *Share this* and *Comment*.

I’m aware that we don’t have a true task-based navigation system and that several sections still hang off the departmental structure. We have no proper social functions on the intranet because we don’t have the technical architecture or platform. We have *strap-on* sites such as Huddle and Civil Pages but they don’t talk to each other and they don’t integrate with the intranet. We still have the most useless employee directory, again not integrated into the intranet or any other systems such as Outlook. And I’ve been waiting over a year (or is it two?) for our Google Search Appliance upgrade.

So plenty to get on with.

For now, that’s the end of this budget intranet redesign series.
Thanks for all the mentions and RTs over the past weeks.

Mentioned sites

In this series

  1. Research, surveys and brief
  2. Information architecture and content audit
  3. Wireframe designs and user testing
  4. Visual design, HTML and CMS build
  5. Migration, content freeze/dual publishing
  6. Communications, launch and evaluation

Pseudo-social functions on news stories

Although I blogged about introducing “social functions” on the intranet, I have to admit that they are not 100% social. In fact, I probably should have called them “engagement tools.”


Here’s how it works. We have voting functions on news stories for “More like this” and “Fewer like this.” When you vote, it ultimately gets counted and sent to our editorial team. Our “Share with a colleague” function will send an email to another staff member. And adding a comment will send an email to the editorial team.

In all these cases we are still using old-fashioned one-to-one relationships. It’s not truly social because if I vote for a news story or add a comment, only the editorial team get to know about it. My work colleagues won’t know. And other staff across the organisation won’t know. These days, on the internet, if I share or like something then other people get to know about it. At the very least, whatever I share or like is out there and available for other people to find. And that’s the power of “social.”

On the intranet, these new functions are a good start in an attempt to open up a dialogue with staff and to improve sharing. But because we have no database or programming capability on our intranet server, we remain limited in what we can deliver to staff in terms of true social functions.