Why Measurement Is Important

“The things that get measured are the things that get done. Companies measure the stuff they care about.”

Measurement is importantSo simple yet so powerful and so true. This is a quote from a recent episode of the excellent Manager Tools podcast, and it has big implications for communications folks.

Sure, there are a lot of barriers to effective measurement. For one thing, there’s no standard industry-wide way to measure success, especially in social media (yes, I know about CPRS’s MRP but it’s not “standard” yet). For another, there’s the instant pressure to move onto the next project once you’ve executed the last one. Then, on the agency side, there’s the additional cost that the client has to agree to.

Yes, there are barriers galore. I’m sure there are plenty of other factors to overcome. I don’t have the answers to them.

Still, I can’t escape the important implication of the quote:

If we want senior management to take communications seriously, we need to measure our activities.

To those of you out there who are already sold on the importance of measuring what we do, read no further. I don’t need to preach to the choir.

To the rest of you, though, read on.

You’re probably like me – you have a template for your communications plans with a section to plan how you will evaluate your initiative. Maybe you even fill it out. But do you ever do it?

Here’s the thing: other business units do. They evaluate their projects, even if it means finding proxies for what they really want to measure (like complaint numbers as a measure of product quality).

That’s why they have credibility.

That’s why they have a voice at the senior management table.

So, next time you write a communications plan and say something like…

We will evaluate success based on:

  • Amount and tone of media coverage
  • Correspondence received
  • Pick-up of key messages

… or the like, actually do it.

We may not have the perfect methodology, an ideal amount of time to spend, or a huge budget, but we have to start somewhere.

If you don’t care how successful your activities are, how do you expect your CEO to care?

(photo credit: FlickrJunkie)

14 comments
Mark Horstman
Mark Horstman

Dave-

Thanks for the kudos on the cast, and we couldn't agree more. Too many staff orgs don't want to measure their stuff, while trying to support line orgs that get measured to death. It hurts credibility, to say nothing of effectiveness. It's scary, probably, for many...but courage isn't the absence of fear, it's acting in spite of it.

Mark Horstman
Manager Tools

Mark Horstman
Mark Horstman

Dave- Thanks for the kudos on the cast, and we couldn't agree more. Too many staff orgs don't want to measure their stuff, while trying to support line orgs that get measured to death. It hurts credibility, to say nothing of effectiveness. It's scary, probably, for many...but courage isn't the absence of fear, it's acting in spite of it. Mark Horstman Manager Tools

Csalomonlee
Csalomonlee

Hi Dave, I agree that measurement is key and doesn't have to be too fancy or complicated. For me and the size of my company, I focus only on the PR efforts that were directly a result of my efforts - not through pick up on news wires or the original article.

As my company develops, I envision tracking what key messages are being picked up.

The key is establishing a template and updating it regularly ( Check out my previous post on this here - http://prmeetsmarketing.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/measuring-pr-the-quick-and-easy-way/). That way, you can provide measurement weekly, monthly or quarterly vs spending 20 hours in the two days before it’s needed.

Csalomonlee
Csalomonlee

Hi Dave, I agree that measurement is key and doesn't have to be too fancy or complicated. For me and the size of my company, I focus only on the PR efforts that were directly a result of my efforts - not through pick up on news wires or the original article. As my company develops, I envision tracking what key messages are being picked up. The key is establishing a template and updating it regularly ( Check out my previous post on this here - http://prmeetsmarketing.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/measuring-pr-the-quick-and-easy-way/). That way, you can provide measurement weekly, monthly or quarterly vs spending 20 hours in the two days before it’s needed.

Ian Ross
Ian Ross

Hey Dave. I agree that many comm plan evaluation pages never receive the attention they deserve. It's a shame. It speaks to our channel surfing habits. We're always looking for the next exciting project, not hours of numbers and analysis.
For PR to fully embrace evaluation, I think it needs to start at the bottom. Junior and mid-level staffers who have higher aspirations need to find the time to do the proper analysis of their own work (yes, this may mean a few more late nights and non-billable hours). This would help them develop a better understanding of effective PR strategies, and prove to their clients and bosses that they have the facts to back up their observations.
I would argue this also puts them in a better position to be promoted. And hopefully they bring their committment for evaluation with them.

Ian Ross
Ian Ross

Hey Dave. I agree that many comm plan evaluation pages never receive the attention they deserve. It's a shame. It speaks to our channel surfing habits. We're always looking for the next exciting project, not hours of numbers and analysis. For PR to fully embrace evaluation, I think it needs to start at the bottom. Junior and mid-level staffers who have higher aspirations need to find the time to do the proper analysis of their own work (yes, this may mean a few more late nights and non-billable hours). This would help them develop a better understanding of effective PR strategies, and prove to their clients and bosses that they have the facts to back up their observations. I would argue this also puts them in a better position to be promoted. And hopefully they bring their committment for evaluation with them.

Zoe
Zoe

Excellent post Dave.

I find it also helps to have clear goals in mind. It helps even more when these goals come directly from your client.

Defining what is important is key to figuring out how far you've come along.

z

Zoe
Zoe

Excellent post Dave. I find it also helps to have clear goals in mind. It helps even more when these goals come directly from your client. Defining what is important is key to figuring out how far you've come along. z

Joseph Wilburn
Joseph Wilburn

I really like your observations, Dave.

I know in school we're actually being taught to "quantify" in our communication plans now despite the lack of a consistency in our industry in measuring our activities.

For example, I might say, "we will evaluate our success based on achieving 3 or more outlets playing our key messages in our media monitoring activities." Something along those lines.

So, it is being done in the schools now. Hopefully, we'll be prepared for when it becomes more mainstream.

Joseph Wilburn
Joseph Wilburn

I really like your observations, Dave. I know in school we're actually being taught to "quantify" in our communication plans now despite the lack of a consistency in our industry in measuring our activities. For example, I might say, "we will evaluate our success based on achieving 3 or more outlets playing our key messages in our media monitoring activities." Something along those lines. So, it is being done in the schools now. Hopefully, we'll be prepared for when it becomes more mainstream.

Rick Weiss
Rick Weiss

Hi Dave,
Your post really affirms what my instructors at Centennial have been saying about measurability.
Stress is on making the our strategies measureable right from the start. Its difficult to wrap our head around at the beginning, but as I come across it again and again, measurement just starts to make sense.

Rick Weiss
Rick Weiss

Hi Dave, Your post really affirms what my instructors at Centennial have been saying about measurability. Stress is on making the our strategies measureable right from the start. Its difficult to wrap our head around at the beginning, but as I come across it again and again, measurement just starts to make sense.

Jason Ryan
Jason Ryan

Good points Dave.
Another approach to providing value to senior management is to institute a reporting regimen, so that (quarterly at a minimum) the senior team gets to look at the contribution comms/public affairs is making to the organization's strategic goals.
This shifts the focus from plans and specific initiatives (the project management mentality, particularly in government) to a recognition that communications is an integral part of the business and should be reviewed regularly, along with the HR, Finance and other reports.

Jason Ryan
Jason Ryan

Good points Dave. Another approach to providing value to senior management is to institute a reporting regimen, so that (quarterly at a minimum) the senior team gets to look at the contribution comms/public affairs is making to the organization's strategic goals. This shifts the focus from plans and specific initiatives (the project management mentality, particularly in government) to a recognition that communications is an integral part of the business and should be reviewed regularly, along with the HR, Finance and other reports.

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