Each year for the past decade I’ve been asking Santa to put a few measurement treats under my holiday tree. He’s been pretty generous over the years, bringing many of my requests, including:
- Better ways to capture and measure social media,
- More integration of outcomes and business results with media relations metrics, and
- Better filters and APIs for collecting data.
So this year we thought we’d ask our readers for some ideas of their own. What do they want Measurement Santa to bring them?
Wish #1: An alternative to Ad Value Equivalency
This is the one request we got over and over again. Everyone wants a convenient and valid way to tell their bosses how they are doing (which is not AVE, or what it would have cost to purchase equivalent advertising space). The good news is that there already is one. We call it the Kick Butt Index or Optimal Content Score.
If you need to put dollar signs in there, here's how to calculate Cost For Kicking Butt: Take your entire PR budget and divide it by the number of items with a Kick Butt Index over 5. An even better approach is to work through the Valid Metrics Framework and tie your efforts to true business goals.
Wish #2: Take away the toys
A big problem in measurement today is there are way too many tool options and choices. I see so many clients who are confused and frustrated. They frequently spend hundreds of hours, and many dollars, trying to sort out these various tools.
Now, I spend most of my days selling measurement tools -- and so do many of my best friends -- so I apologize in advance if I offend anyone and everyone here. But I have said over and over again that it is not until the second-to-last step in a perfect measurement program that you select your tool(s). Don't worry about choosing a measurement tool until you've done everything else you need to do to design a program that will answer your questions.
So it’s time to get serious. Santa! Please take away all the toys (oops! I meant "tools") and don’t give them back until the people who want to use them are clear about their goals and what data they need to have.
The reality is, we do not need any more tools. Most people have a great many of them already. They are called SPSS or SAS or CRM or Monitoring or Google Analytics or Web Trends or Omniture or Convio. They all spit out vast quantities of data on a daily basis. But little of that data is used because the tools were purchased without a clear understanding of what data is needed to make better decisions, and whether or not the tool could in fact provide it.
I can’t tell you how many times I've encountered this situation: A company hires me to come in and help them design their measurement program, define the metrics they want, and decide what’s important and what they want to track. Then, at the end of a day of working on these things, they’ll say “Oh, by the way, we just signed a contract to purchase XYZ Company's measurement tool. Will it provide those metrics?"
And then I have to tell them "No. You just committed six figures to a product that won’t do the job at all."
Wish #3: Encourage people to play nicely and share data
Most organizations have plenty of data, they just don’t share. The PR team will work its heart out on an event and then get no feedback. Or the media team will post fabulous results but have no clue whether it had any impact on anything. Worst still, PR will get blamed for a crisis without any idea if it had any real impact on the stakeholders.
The problem is "silos behaving badly." Most organizations collect lots of data within specific departments, but they don’t realize how much more valuable that data would be if it was shared.
Santa: Please put coal in the stockings of anyone in any department who says "No" when asked to share data!
Please encourage them to share the web traffic data, their sales data, their budget data, and their social analytics data -- whatever PR asks for. Because the reason that PR is asking for it is that they are trying to connect what they are doing to real business results. What’s so dangerous about that?
Wish #4: Cleaner data, and coal for the spammers
It used to be relatively easy to screen out the fake Viagra ads and porn sites. But now the spammers have gotten cleverer, setting up fake Facebook accounts to comment and post links to their pay-per-click sites. They see a trending hashtag and their robots repeatedly post links to their sites that have nothing to do with the hashtag. They create clever algorithms that find blog posts and send a steady stream of fake comments to them. The people behind this deserve only coal in their stockings for the rest of their natural born days. (I actually wish them much worse but in the spirit of peace and harmony I’m keeping those thoughts to myself!)
Wish #5: Better manners
I would like Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (a.k.a. Maggie Smith in "Downton Abbey") to be the arbiter of all of social media conversations for a day. She understands exactly how social dialog works. She would insist upon manners and civility, but would not object to someone occasionally speaking their mind.
Most of all she would cast her infamous withering look upon anyone who uses social media only as a broadcast tool to just shout about themselves. She would slap the wrist of the people that Tweet in capital letters endlessly about their great new offer or announcement. She would cut dead the company that is somehow hijacking my Facebook account to post ads and fool people into thinking that I am endorsing their products.
Wish #6: An end to the obsession with big numbers: less impressions, more engagement
Every day I read another story about how some company or another is changing its counting scheme or finding flaws in how they are calculating “viewable impressions.” To me this all seems like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The media landscape is so fragmented between multiple screens, multiple channels, and multiple ways to select and view entertainment that we should all come to realize that the era of big numbers is over. There is no credibility or value in telling a client “My wonderful PR program reached 3.3 billion people last year.”
The reality is that it didn’t. And you know it. You are assigning an impression count of 850 million to each Facebook post, when you know very well that less than 10% of Facebook posts are even seen. Then you want to use a multiplier of three because that’s what you’ve always used? Come into the 21st Century, please. What you really want to do is to count actual customer engagement, not overly inflated fictitious potential eyeballs. When will people realize that 100 engaged and committed advocates for your brand are far more valuable than 3 billion people who never existed or even saw your brand in the first place?
Wish #7: Measurement mavens
I had dinner the other night with a wonderful young man who went to college thinking he’d be a designer. Once there he discovered how interesting industrial design could be and pursued that course of study. He then heard all the talk of big data and the importance of analysis, and he's now taking courses in IT. That’s the guy I want to hire in the future. Someone who can look at numbers, understand their validity and relevance, and then be creative enough to find insight and solutions in those numbers.
- Jim Macnamara,
- Sharon McIntosh at PepsiCo,
- My own boss Mazen Nahawi,
- Philip Sheldrake, and
- All those professors out there that are making their communications students take statistics in freshmen year.
Happy holidays, happy measuring, and here's hoping Santa brings you most of what's on your wish list.
(Thanks to The Critical Eye for the Santa letter image.)
Katie Delahaye Paine is the Chief Marketing Officer of News Group, a leader in international media monitoring and evaluation, as well as Chairman & Founder of Salience/KDPaine & Partners, the leader in integrated social and traditional communications measurement. 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. She writes KDPaine’s Measurement Blog and publishes The Measurement Standard. Katie and Beth Kanter are authors of the book “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” to published this year by Wiley.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of Salience/KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine will be glad to talk with you about measurement for your organization.