KPIs, for a speechwriter?

Key performance indicators: HR departments insist, speechwriters resist. But one scribe tries to quantify his contribution.

A speechwriter wants to know—because his HR department wants to know—what are key performance indicators for speechwriters?

Veteran Dow Chemical exec comms chief Fletcher Dean—also director of the PSA's Speechwriting School—has been struggling with this one for years. Here's his thinking. What's yours? —DM


Tough one. In more than 20 years doing the job, I’ve never really developed one set of performance indicators that universally gives anyone a clue as to how I’m performing in my job. The most important indicator—is the boss happy?—usually trumps any other artificial indicator I could come up with. Having said that, organizations are almost obsessive that everyone suffer through the same set of HR/Performance exercises. To that end, I’m not sure that this will help but …

I currently develop a yearly Key Expectations document that outlines the priorities not only for myself but for my key client that I want to achieve. For my client, I’ll include things like:

· An X number of outside speaking invitations before strategic audiences. (‘Invitations’ because so much of that is outside of the speechwriter’s control.) Usually count these on an annual basis (not a quarterly) because at least in the corporate world you have three busy quarters (Fall, Winter, Spring) and then summer when nada happens.

· A robust and updated set of speaking platforms.

· An X number of leveraged work pieces (such as op-eds, social media items, etc) that come from the speeches themselves.

· An X number of social media tributes.

Then, depending on where you are with your speaker(s), you can develop speaker-specific expectations.

For myself, I’ll include things like:

· X Amount of training

· X number of learning sessions with key parts of the organization

· Sometimes I’ll throw in training that I’ll lead.

And at the end of the year, my org does a 360 review, soliciting input from those I’ve worked most closely with, usually on a prescribed set of behaviors we most value (collaboration, respect for individuals, etc)

You can’t count the number of speeches, the volume of words, or the number of rewrites. You can’t count the number of times the audience claps or gasps. You can’t count the number of active vs passive words (well, you could if that’s a recurring problem for you but you should be doing that anyway).

At the end of the day, it’s really all about how well your client appreciates what you do. Is the boss happy with the work product and the way it’s produced?


Speechwriter, can you do better?

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