|Olympic hopeful Caleb Paine rounds a buoy|
A young sailor maps his course for the gold.
Editor's Note: This article is about how to work from your goals to develop KPIs and metrics.
- To learn about how to actually do the measurement, see "KDPaine's Trade Show & Event Measurement Checklist: Your framework for measuring trade shows, events and sponsorships.")
- To learn more about how to measure the ROI of a conference, see "How to Measure the ROI of a Conference," where you can download a sample spreadsheet that Katie Paine uses to measure conferences she speaks at.
by Katie Delahaye Paine
When I heard my cousin Caleb Paine talk about his goal to become an Olympic sailor, I immediately started thinking about metrics that could help him get there. For any public relations measurement program, setting goals and KPIs is a vital beginning step. (In fact, KDPaine & Partners' new product, the KBI Development System, helps companies do just that, among other things.) So I became intrigued about how I could apply some lessons from measurement to Caleb's quest for gold.
I first met Caleb when he was still in diapers. His father Doug, my first cousin, took me along as crew in a sailboat race off San Diego. Caleb spent most of the race wandering cheerfully around the boat, using every piece of hardware as his own private jungle gym. We were sailing very well and approaching the finish line when it became abundantly clear that Caleb’s diaper needed changing. Doug didn't hesitate or waver from his course—he took the tiller in his knees, changed his son’s diaper, and won the race.
No wonder the kid became a sailor!
At the age of seven, when he was already a hot shot Sabot racer, Caleb learned that sailing was an Olympic sport. That’s when his personal goal was established: He would win Olympic Gold in sailing.
Now, 11 years later, he’s a member of the Junior Olympic US Sailing Alphagraphics team, training for London in 2012. I was honored when he asked me to help him with his marketing. That’s when it occurred to me that I could use his campaign as a perfect example of how to measure events and sponsorships.
Defining Strategies, KPIs, and Metrics
Let's leave Caleb to his sailing for a moment and review the public relations measurement basics involved with KPIs and metrics. Your overall goal is pursued by means of one or more strategies. We define each strategy in terms of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), which indicate progress on the strategy. The metrics are the specific measurements -- the numbers -- that we use to assess the KPIs, and thus assess progress on the strategy. Each metric is provided by a measurement tool.
Consider an example: If, for instance, you were measuring progress on your goal to increase a company's reputation as a thought leader in green technology, then:
- Your strategy might be to have your company's thought leaders get more exposure and better positioning as a green tech expert relative to the competition;
- Your KPIs would probably include Share of Positioning as Thought Leader, or Share of Company Thought Leaders Quoted vs. the Competition;
- Specific metrics for these KPIs would be the actual share expressed as a percentage; and
- The measurement tool you would use would be qualitative content analysis of articles or tweets or blog posts or other social media.
Sail On, Sailor
Now let's return to Caleb's Olympic quest, and apply the above framework to analyze his campaign like we would any program. The goal is Olympic gold. I happen to know that he intends to pursue his goal by means of three strategies:
- Strategy #1: Ensure that his body is ready. Caleb sails a Finn, the most demanding class of boat, so extensive physical conditioning is an absolute necessity.
- Strategy #2: Ensure that his sailing skills are ready. He’ll be competing against other sailors with far more years on a Finn, so he needs experience.
- Strategy #3: Ensure that he has the resources. Boat, sails, travel costs – to make it happen costs money.
KPIs for the first two strategies are relatively easy and straight forward.
KPIs for Strategy #1: He clearly needs to achieve certain benchmarks in strength and endurance to know how strong he is getting and by what date. So typical KPIs might be:
- Run xx miles in xx minutes
- Bike xx miles in xx minutes
- Bench press xx pounds (or whatever exercises are appropriate)
In the marketing world these might translate into activity metrics. For instance:
- Produce xx of blog posts, or
- Win xx of speaking engagements at conferences for thought leaders
KPIs for Strategy Part 2: The second set of KPIs are provided by the races in which he competes and the structure of US Sailing. Caleb needs to finish in the top ten or top twenty in every race and show consistent progress.
In the marketing world, these could be considered basic marketing performance metrics, such as:
- Increase web traffic by xx%, or
- Increase number of qualified trade show leads by xx%
KPIs for Strategy Part 3: The KPIs for the third strategy should also sound pretty familiar: Demonstrate marketing clout to attract sponsors. This could be measured by:
- Number of Facebook friends and “likes.” Here's his group. (I know, I know, I rail against using this kind of metric all the time, but in this case it’s a valid metric of Caleb’s value as an endorser of a brand)
- Number of followers on Twitter – another metric that shows sponsors that he has value as a spokesperson (@cpainesailing)
- Number of views, ratings and comments on a YouTube channel
- % increase in visits to his website
- % increase in requests for information
- % increase registrations and subscriptions to his website and blog
- Share of desirable mentions vs. other top Olympic-bound sailors
- Share of desirable discussion vs. other top Olympic-bound sailors on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other key online sailing news sites
- Achieving a certain number of personal appearances at targeted yacht clubs as measured by the total number of prospects encountered each month
- % increase in online donations month to month
- % increase in number of donors/sponsors month to month
All these metrics can easily be tracked in a simple Excel spread sheet. If you’re a major corporation or non-profit, you’ll probably need a more sophisticated dashboard which will enable you to set dates, alarms, and benchmarks more easily.
But the point is that none of these metrics is particularly difficult to track. You just need agreement on what they are before you begin.