The metrics challenge PR faces

A good friend of mine told me recently, in a conversation about reporting the results of a communications campaign: “I told our metrics people to please include share of voice. They said what I was asking for didn’t make sense. But I said, ‘Come on guys, put it in – I don’t know what it is, but people are using that word a lot in meetings.'”

This attitude is a big challenge for the credibility of the practice. It’s a dismissive attitude, bred by fear that comes of not knowing. Not knowing how regular and thoughtful use of metrics, allow PR pros to not only track, but also tell the story of the work we do as professional communicators. Other fields, such as marketing, have models and metrics that adequately tell the story of how effective marketing efforts are.

Public relations and communications management are at a crossroads. Comms pros need to be able to provide effective counsel to organizational leadership that demonstrates effectiveness in an iterative, valid and relevant fashion. This means going beyond the simple “my campaign worked because I produced these outputs: social media posts, media releases, etc.)” to “Here is the sustainable value of what I am building for the organization” and “Here are my predictions of where our communications efforts should lead”.

To get to that point, we need effective metrics. That doesn’t mean a “smiley face” that indicates positive traditional and social media coverage that day – such a global “one number” evaluation is so reductive that it is meaningless. Rather, a suite of metrics that measure the psychological, social and cultural impacts of our strategies and tactics.

To get there, we need to think deeply about the nature of the work we do as professional communicators. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is my real role in the value chain of the organization I am in?
  • How is my work perceived by my manager or my clients?
  • What other departments or functions are impacted by what I do for the organization? How are they affected?

Answering these questions honestly – and on a regular basis – in a journal, or better in a spreadsheet, will soon reveal patterns that you can turn into metrics. These metrics will then be your ambassadors in memos, annual reports and organizational white papers. Without them, you will have no voice and probably not be taken seriously. With them, you begin to show that you are integral part of the organization’s value chain.

Remember, metrics aren’t all about frightening numbers and statistics. They are just signposts and benchmarks that clearly document your goals and objectives, as well as how well you doing to achieve them.

You can read my JPC editorial, if you would like to know more about what I think about this topic.

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