Don't be a Tool - quote from Michelle Hinson on #measurePRLast week I had a whirlwind trip to Florida for not one, not two, but three speaking/training engagements in as many days. And even for me, that’s a lot. Whew!

As I’ve been talking to folk about social PR and measurement – which really go hand-in-hand, IMHO – there are a few things that really seemed to resonate… or change.

  1. Numbers are not scary.

I know that a lot of PR pros go into school (and come out of it) because they have absolutely no desire to do math. “That’s not why I went to PR school.”

Now, I didn’t go to PR school at all, and I did spend much of my earlier life being intimidated by numbers. But here’s the thing – we live and breathe numbers in our daily lives. Every. Single. Day.

So numbers by themselves are not scary, because we encounter them all the time… and are quite happy to co-exist with them.

I think what make “numbers” so scary are the expectations that are attached to them. Acronyms like “ROI” drive us nuts. Because no one’s ever taught us how to do this.

So: repeat after me: numbers, on their own, are not scary. It’s what we imbue them with that becomes scary – the power to make or break us (Julie O’Neil wrote a terrific guest post on the latter day before yesterday).

That we can change.

  1. “PR by Numbers” is not necessarily measurable.

A cookie-cutter approach to PR is partly why our profession has such a bad rap. We can fall into the trap of churning out the same old, same old, tried and tested tactics.

That’s what I call PR by Numbers. Fit the puzzle piece into the slot if the numbers match.

Despite the use of “numbers” in that phrase, this kind of activity is usually anything but measurable… in the right way, at least.

Yes, you may be checking off all sorts of boxes that make your boss happy… but are you really advancing the business objectives of your organization?

I think… probably not.

So if you have fallen prey to “PR by Numbers,” remember that even if the numbers match up, that doesn’t mean they are measurable.

  1. There is only one formula for successful PR measurement, and it’s probably not the one you’re looking for.

I love word play. It’s so much fun (erm, maybe that’s why it’s called word “play”?!) and I think it keeps us from getting too serious about ourselves.

So when I talk and teach about measurement, I indulge in a little word play with three letters, in this order: WT___ (I bet you figured the last one out). I use that letter to get folks thinking about one word, when it actually stands for another.

And that other word is: “formula.”

This is what I think (know) a lot of people are looking for when it comes to PR measurement. Some kind of black box, plug-and-play solution that they can pay some money for (possibly a lot!), “plug in” and then wash their hands of doing anything else.

The thing is: there is NO plug-and-play solution for smart PR measurement, at least, as of now. So the “F” does not exist. It would be super-cool if it came to be in my lifetime, but I honestly don’t know if it will.

The ONLY formula I can give you is this:

  • Put in place a really smart listening (old world speak: “monitoring”) solution
  • Analyze the results of the data that you secure as a result of that listening
  • Rinse and repeat, aka, implement and improve.

If you look at those three bullet points, they are not a stock formula. They do not tell you, do X and then you’ll get Y.

They do tell you this: how to use your brain.

And that is what is key in smart PR measurement: making sense of the data for your particular situation… because it is unique. Which means only you can come up with the right solution for YOU.

You can put in place all sorts of metrics, dashboards, whatever. But most of that is process. It’s only when you start to put your little grey cells to work for you and your particular situation that you start to develop insights.

And insights are what will guide your campaigns and programs – not toolboxes, or dashboards, or any other “stuff.”

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke