by Katie Delahaye Paine
I RARELY WRITE ABOUT CLIENTS or former clients in this column, but this time I really couldn’t resist. I had the privilege of supplying Facebook with some of its first public relations metrics back in 2007 and 2008. As we were presenting results in Palo Alto one day, Mark Zuckerberg joined the meeting. I took the opportunity to ask him how he defined success for his PR team. He paused and then said: “People will trust us more.”
I’ve used this story frequently since then to illustrate the difference between how CEOs define PR success and how PR defines success. At the time, we were measuring the usual volume and tonality and correlating it to new Facebook signups. And, while that was a pretty good outcome measure in our books, it clearly did not reflect the definition of success that Mr. Zuckerberg had in mind.
His interest in trust prompted me to give him our paper on how to measure trust. I also gave him a copy of my book, opened to the How to Measure Trust chapter. (Click here now to buy Measure What Matters. Or click here to download just the chapter on measuring trust at no charge.) He could have -- and should have -- started right away to measure the trust that people had in Facebook. Might have saved some recent grief.
But I tend to doubt that Mr. Zuckerberg heeded my advice, since in the intervening years, Facebook has made little effort to bolster people's trust. Abrupt policy changes, unclear privacy rules, and an appearance of secrecy have resulted in a growing chorus of concern among journalists, legislators and customers. And, since one of the measures of trust is reduced legal fees, I can guess just by reading the papers that their trust index isn’t going up. (For more on Facebook's trust issues, see this article in The Atlantic, where the chart above appears.)
Now that the social networking giant has gone public it has a whole new audience with which it needs to build trust: the millions of individual and institutional investors that purchased its stock last week. And it doesn’t sound like they’re feeling it right now: http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/23/technology/facebook-lawsuit/
Many people liken trust and good public relationships to a rainy day bank account. You build up trust with your stakeholders over the years by being honest and reputable and forthright. Then when you screw up -- and we all do, sooner or later -- you've got enough trust in your account so that they will forgive you.
I find it supremely ironic (but not that surprising) that four or five years ago Mr. Zuckerberg had the insight and wisdom to identify a vital thing his company needed to do to succeed: build up its trust account. Yet since then he appears to have stopped paying attention to that trust account and has paid more attention to his bank account instead, confusing account growth with value growth.
The constant drain on Facebook's trust account coupled with the giant mess that was the IPO has left nothing for a rainy day. And we’re guessing there will be a lot of rainy days in the next few months.
(Thanks for the May 2012 poll results image above to AP-CNBC.)
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. Katie and Beth Kanter are authors of the book “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” to be published this year by Wiley.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners, will be glad to talk with you about measurement for your organization.