The Paine of Measurement
I learned what it's like to be a measurement client -- while I was asleep.
I’ve been setting up measurement programs for years. But it wasn’t until the other day, when I went through a little measurement experience of my own, that I had an opportunity to walk in my clients’ shoes. Now that I’ve done that, I know some of the frustrations of starting a new program. And the fun part was I didn’t have to get out of bed. Here's the story.
As part of their outreach to busy business women, the good folks at Zeo sent me one of their nifty new headband monitors that measures your sleep patterns. As a measurement geek, of course I loved this whole notion. I couldn’t wait to try it out. (That photo to the right is the headband in action. It’s not, in case you are wondering, a picture of me.)
Zeo’s wear-while-you-sleep device does, essentially, what my doctor ordered for me five years ago: a sleep study. The difference is that it costs $99, compared to $5,000 for a full-blown sleep study.
In terms of the measurement industry, this little gadget is the equivalent of what has happened to the measurement market over the last decade. In the olden days a good customized measurement solution would set you back over $100,000 a year. Then along came automated collection and sentiment analysis, and the price dropped to $500 a month.
So it was not surprising that my personal behavior closely mirrored the recent behavior of many in the measurement market: I stopped putting off something I knew I needed to do, and I actually started measuring. In this case, measuring my sleep patterns.
I eagerly set the system up next to my bed. The actual measurement device is a Bluetooth headband that connects to my iPhone. First I had to charge the headband, then I had to link it to my iPhone. Since I was doing this at midnight, I wasn’t exactly brilliant at following directions. So it took me a couple of tries. Like most corporate communicators implementing a measurement program, I was having trouble getting started. And so I experienced some frustration.
Finally, all was working. I put on the headband and went to sleep. While I slept, Zeo kept track of my sleep cycles. Zeo actually produces a single score known as your “ZQ,” a summary of how you slept expressed in a single, objective number. ZQ is based on your amount of “Zs,” including restorative REM and Deep sleep, minus disrupted time spent awake. It’s the sleep equivalent of an Optimal Content Score.
Figure 1: The Zeo summary chart for one of my most restful night’s sleep.
I was up early the next morning and eagerly checked my ZQ. It was 78, out of a possible 100. At first blush, that seemed pretty good. But then I had to wonder: If this were 8th grade, then I’d be getting a C in Sleep class. Ugh. Was I just mediocre? Did everyone else have a 90? Or was the average 50? In which case I was doing okay.
Fortunately, Zeo has a quick little calculator that helps you out. It turns out that I sleep like a 65-year-old, and the average in my demographic group is a 68. So I was doing okay, at least compared to most people like myself. I also realized that one night does not measurement make. I needed more data.
The next night, unfortunately, it turned out that I hadn’t put the headband back in its holder properly, so was out of juice. In corporate measurement terms, this is the equivalent of having your content feed not working. No content, no data. Happens more frequently than you think.
So I charged it up and the next night everything was working perfectly. I crawled into bed determined to get at least an 80. Instead I got a 43. My first thought was, “AAACK, I just flunked sleeping!” (And I thought I was so good at it: My friends call it my “nap attacks.” J ) Well, it turned out that the headband had slipped around in the middle of the night, so it only recorded for 3 hours. Kind of like those corporate measurement types that get distracted by differing priorities. Until you see the gaps in the chart, you don’t realize the implications.
But I was reassured; at least I wasn’t a dunce in sleep class. Or so I thought. The next night I tightened the headband, connected to my iPhone, and fell into what I was sure was a sound sleep. Not. Turns out my ZQ score for the night was a 68. Average -- but who wants to be average? And I’d started out so well…
Once again a feeling of failure came over me. “To heck with this measurement stuff!” was my first thought. Then I started wondering what the difference was between the two nights of data. What had I done differently? Maybe I should gather some more data before giving up on my dreams of sweet dreams.
So, I dutifully used the device for another week. In the mean time, I read Zeo’s blog and took their expert advice to heart. By the end of the week my score was up to 80.
In a week, I learned a lot about myself. I now know that, if go to sleep with the TV or radio on, then I don’t sleep as well. So, no more falling asleep to the BBC or Rachel Maddow. I also learned that I sleep better if I don’t eat or drink right before falling asleep.
And now I am sleeping better. It took a week to learn that measuring my sleep habits is good for my health. (Considering my profession, maybe I should have picked up that concept a little quicker.)
Which is precisely how measurement works. When your measurement system is new, you look forward to the results with bated breath. You get frustrated waiting for them, and depressed when they are not as “good” as you think they should be. And finally, you realize that what this is really all about is trying again, learning from the peaks and the valleys, and ultimately improving your performance. (To read more about unrealistic expectations from measurement programs, see “What to Expect When You Are Expecting Measurement: 5 Unrealistic Expectations.”)
Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine is a dynamic and experienced speaker on public relations and social media measurement. Click here for the schedule of Katie’s upcoming speaking engagements.