The preachometer

Measuring impact

Back in 2000, I was completing a Master’s Degree in Preaching and tackling my dissertation on ‘the preacher as translator’. Having invested a lot of time prior to that in the study of translation science, the topic held a fascination for me. I knew all about the translator’s ‘Holy Grail’ of equivalent meaning, and the fact that most times she or he must settle for something less in either formal equivalence (mirroring every word) or dynamic equivalence (mirroring the impact of original text).

Twenty-odd thousand words later, my conclusions were twofold. Firstly, the preacher should not be so seized by the image of translation that the Biblical text loses its ‘teeth’ in an effort to fit in with the world of those who hear the sermon. It is, and always will be, a word from ‘another place’ which lands in the world of the listener. Secondly, I concluded that the most effective measure of any sermon was not how it sounds or how much it is enjoyed, but how much difference it makes. A translator whose job is to translate road signs, for instance, knows that they are doing a good job when all the cars turn the right way!

Yesterday I downloaded a communications report from YouGov and found that second conclusion unexpectedly endorsed. The report says that ’43 % of survey respondents indicated that increasing stakeholder engagement was their most important objective for communications planning’. More significantly, it states that ‘communicators are defining success by the actions their audience takes upon receiving a message’.  Preachers – take note!

Years ago, the TV show ‘Opportunity Knocks’ used to measure the success of an act by the decibel level recorded in the auditorium on the ‘clapometer’ pictured below. Nobody ever felt it was any kind of scientific measure. In these days of integrated media where votes can be cast by phone, text, red button or likes it looks nothing more than a quaint relic.

Here’s a question, though. If you are communicating for a living today – how will you measure the success of your communication?

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