The Paine of Measurement
No one says you have to measure every medium on the planet.
When my cousin Caleb was into his "terrible twos" and heading for trouble, his father, who stands an imposing 6 feet 3 inches tall, would look down at him and say in his deep baritone: "CALEB, MAKE GOOD CHOICES." Invariably, Caleb would stop what he was doing, sit down and think for a minute, and then modify his behavior accordingly.
The lesson seems to have taken. Caleb is now taller than his father, and a true teenage heartthrob. With very few exceptions, he makes great choices.
Oh, that PR people had such good survival skills. Sadly, they tend to keep doing the bad stuff rather than embracing the good. Four years ago, a member of the audience at a conference on new media raised his hand and said, "l don't have time to deal with all this on-line stuff, I'm too busy as it is."
I wonder how many PR people in the 30's and 40's said the same thing about radio and television. "Woe is me, one more thing I have to learn how to do." Rather than embrace the new, PR people tend to look at new media as yet another burden to be borne. And once they start measuring and tracking one media, they find it extraordinarily hard to embrace a new one. In the last month, at conference after conference, people have whined about how hard it is to deal with social media, and why they don't have the time or resources to measure it.
My answer is: Make Good Choices. No one says you have to measure every medium on the planet. Just because it's new, it doesn't mean you have to monitor it. You can and should choose to concentrate on, and measure, the media that are most important to your customers. If they're on Facebook and YouTube, you better be monitoring them. If they're sharing ideas on Twitter and photos on Flickr, it would behoove you to sign up and listen in. On the other hand, if they're still reading hard copies of trade magazines, then that may be all you need to monitor.
Better still, measure the impact on the customer directly. As Jim Macnamara writes, the average person sees, consumes and creates dozens of different media every day. If you have an unlimited budget, you measure all of those different media. But it's so much simpler to just measure the behavior of the consumer instead. Ask them how they perceive their relationship with your organization. Follow their behavior on your website. Watch and see how engaged they are with your blog. That's all the measure you need.
As long as PR people obsess about tracking column inches and "hits," of course they are going to be overwhelmed with the possibilities and the burden of measuring them all. But if they focus on the outcome – the actual customer behavior – chances are they'll survive and thrive in this new hyper-media world.