When I heard that Sandra McLeod was leaving Echo, the measurement company she founded just after I founded The Delahaye Group, it gave me pause. I had admired and competed with Sandra for years both at Delahaye and at KDPaine & Partners. She was one of the original movers and shakers in the PR measurement industry But at the time, I chalked it up to the normal transition that happens when you sell your company.
Then, a few months later, Richard Bagnall left Metrica, another of my competitors and colleagues who had promoted best measurement practices and lead the charge towards standards in the industry.
This week, I became the third of those original measurement pioneers to leave behind their companies and move on to a new adventure. Yes, this is just the normal process that happens when you sell your company, but more than that I think our collective departures are indicative of a sea change in the industry.
The companies that Sandra and Richard and I founded and ran all started out collecting magazine and newspaper articles by hand, Our companies grew up with lots of paper and libraries and physical clips. When automated solutions came along in the late 90s, we adapted. And again in the early years of the 20th century when the social media revolution began, we adapted again. We invested in new technologies changed our practices and won back most of the clients that found all the technology very sexy but not very useful.
But the days of media measurement as we knew it are numbered. When I started in the industry there was me and a couple of other people talking about PR measurement. Now there are now some 350 companies providing some form of social or traditional media analysis. We used to think that just having data was enough. Now we have more data than anyone knows what to do with, Which is why I'm once again changing careers to focus on providing the insight and guidance that people are seeking.
For the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to consult with a select group of organizations that have taken the Barcelona Principles to heart, and realized that their existing measurement systems are not up to task of helping them operate and compete effectively in their markets. Some of these clients are in charge of internal communications, some are external. Some embrace social media, some do not. But regardless they all share a common problem. They can’t start measuring because there is no clear consensus on their goals.
Over the years I’ve developed a system to help these clients achieve that consensus. At the end of the process, the clients, frequently to their surprise, have a clear set of metrics and a path to a much better and more useful measurement system. Sometimes that path includes new research and/or new vendors, other times its as simple as having lunch with their marketing analysts.
That consensus-building work has been the most fun, challenging and rewarding work I’ve done in my career in measurement so I’m very excited to tell say, that I’ll be doing lots more of it in the future.
When I started my second company, I was still enamored of the process, the actual collecting of data and analyzing it and frankly, I loved running a company, hiring employees and seeing us move forward. But I'm eleven years older and wiser and have learned a great deal in the past 26 years of running measurement companies.
learned that managing chickens is easier than managing people,
so I'm happy to leave the management and the processes to those who are younger and have more energy and patience than I do.
- I've learned that I'm happiest when I'm helping companies figure out what success means, helping them prioritize their activities, and teaching them how to do measurement better. I do NOT love proofing databases or getting into the weeds about coding.
- When I had cancer, I learned that you have no idea how much time you've got left on the planet, so you choose your activities wisely. I want to spend more time writing and thinking and less time packing and unpacking. More time in my garden and less time on airplanes
- I've learned that as much as I love digging into research, my field is communications and ultimately the purpose of measurement is to improve relationships.
- I've learned the hard way what I tell my audiences constantly. You learn more from failures than you do from success.
- I've learned to treasure the value of my on line and off line communities. For ideas, for support, for feedback and sometimes just for the humanity of it all. Thank you.
- And, I've learned once and for all that as my first mentor, Mike Austin once told me, I'm genetically unemployable. Somehow I was born with an entrepreneurial gene and no amount of therapy gene or otherwise, is going to change that.
So please, stay in touch, watch this space, and you’ll be hearing more soon.