Being a measurement evangelist feels like really hard work sometimes. On the one hand, I haven’t been at it long enough to complain — witness the indefatigable Katie Paine and Angela Jeffrey, who’ve been toiling in the trenches for, well, a long time.
But there surely are situations where measurement is unnecessary, right?
For example, you’re, I don’t know, Walmart. Your stock is suffering, there are employee lawsuits, and one of your stores has been destroyed by a tornado. How much measurement do you need to do to know you’re media coverage is, well, tortuous? It’s likely that no amount of proactive management is going to turn your story around — at least not meaningfully.
Or, you’re a big money center bank — yep, the titans of capitalism currently getting the lion’s share of blame for the financial crisis (some of which is just wrong.) Can’t you make an educated guess about your coverage?
Aside from my personal financial stake in getting Walmart or a big bank to hire me to help them with measurement, I’ll give you three reasons why you should not measure – and three reasons why you should.
Forget Measurement When:
- You cannot make a difference. Sometimes business will hand you a dirt sandwich, and you have no choice but to eat it. There’s no need to weigh the sandwich, examine the types of dirt , evaluate the sandwich-maker, etc. Just eat it and move on.
- You’re unwilling to do what it takes to make things better. Often, the worst media situations are when you’re “making tough choices.” Layoffs, facility closures, moves from one city to another, hiring more executives. The path to turning the story around leads through the organization revisiting its management decisions — deciding not to outsource, keeping the plant open and operating, renovating existing headquarters rather than pitting your incumbent city against somewhere else. See #1, above.
- It’s more expensive to measure than the program your measuring. Advanced statistics are miraculous. We absolutely can measure the specific impact of public relations/communication activity on the bottom line. We just need a lot of data to isolate our impact from everything else that influences the bottom line. That costs money (not as much as you might think, but still,) so let’s spend wisely.
Do Measurement When:
- You care about whether what you’re doing is working or not. You have objectives, and hopefully, they’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) They have a benchmark, target and timeframe. So, if you don’t measure, how do you know whether you’re making progress?
- You know you need to change. Make data-driven decisions! Your intuition is flawless, of course, but as I’ve said many times, the days of PR/Communications being able to wave a hand and say, “trust me” to the c-suite are over. A former boss told me, “facts and data win the day,” and that’s good advice.
- You need numbers to share with the numbers people. Qualitative, quantitative, no matter. There are times when the people you need demand numbers. Measure to give them what they need. Share of voice/discussion, peer comparison of tone of mention, trends in coverage overall, message presence/absence, correlation of coverage to Web traffic. Do measurement when you need to do it!
There is one other reason to do measurement — though more accurately, it’s research we want to do, not only measurement. It’s the right thing to do. It puts us on a firmer foundation. It informs our opinions and enhances our credibility.
What’s your view?