IMG_0581 It’s been quite a last few days, hasn’t it? 

This past Wednesday evening, I was traveling home from a speaking engagement at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln when I was scrolling through my news alerts and found out that Steve Jobs had passed away (note: said scrolling was being done on my iPhone).

Now, I was in no way an early Mac adopter, but ever since my conversion last year, I’ve come to love Apple products. They have literally changed my life. So even though that news wasn’t completely unexpected, the actuality of it made me sad.

It also made me think about how rare it is when the termination of someone’s life affects so very many people. And it made me think of how we don’t celebrate these very rare people often enough when they are among us.

So, today, I celebrate the birthday of someone who has had an incredible impact on my life and, probably, yours, if you work in the public relations and/or social media field… and particularly if you care about the measurement thereof.

She is the Queen of Measurement (or, as she’d rather be known, Sashet) – Ms. Katie Delahaye Paine.

The first meeting

I first came across Katie almost a decade ago. At the time, I was living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was a board member of the San Francisco Bay Area Publicity Club and, being a glutton for punishment (a characteristic I seem to carry with me to this day), also editor of the Club’s newsletter.

(Side note: I tried to find the Club’s current URL to link to, but kept getting redirected to a URL for used cars. WTF? If any former/current board members are reading this, will you let me know what’s going on?)

Anyhoo.

As editor of the newsletter, I was always on the lookout for good articles we could share with our members. And while doing some Internet research, I came across a “measurement weather report” that had been published in The Measurement Standard, an e-pub of Katie’s firm.

“Huh,” I thought. “This is kinda cool. I wonder if this lady would let me reprint it.”

IMG_0577So I sent a reprint request in to the email address listed, explaining who I was (a nobody) and what I was asking for (how many of these must they get a day?!).

You could have picked me up off the floor when, shortly thereafter, I received a reply from The Goddess Herself saying not just “yes,” but, “you’re a likely young lass who’s interested in measurement… would you like me to come down and talk to your organization about it?”

Now, by this time, I had Googled Katie to high heaven (don’t know if the term existed then, but you get my drift), and had figured out how high-powered she was. So when I got her reply … can you spell “gobsmacked”?

If you’re stuck, the answer is “J-A-W-O-N-T-H-E-F-L-O-O-R.”

So I wrote back and, trying not to soil my tighty wighties, said, “Omigoshwe’dlovetobutwecan’taffordsomeonelikeyou!!!!!”

Or words to that effect.

You see, like many other volunteer-run organizations, especially a small one, we had no budget for speakers.

“No matter,” Katie wrote back. “I have to come out there to meet with a client anyway. So if you can cover <X amount of expenses>, I’m yours.”

Or words to that effect.

The Goddess Will Speak!

So off I went to my next board meeting to tell my cohorts what had transpired, and secured their approval. I exited jubilant that, as I was leaving San Francisco (the plans to move to DC were already set in motion), I’d be able to give my chapter and area practitioners a truly unique professional development experience.

Unique it was. And many of us had our eyes opened as to what constituted “good” v. “bad” measurement.

I’m talking outcomes. I’m talking impact. I’m talking what actually results for our organizations from the fruit of our labors, as opposed to just “what” we do.

I remember coming away from that event – we’re talking November 2003 – with my head spinning, and thinking, “This is why we do what we do!”

I had started becoming interested in measurement a while back, but meeting and hearing from Katie solidified that. And ever since then, she has had an indelible impact on my career.

You see …

… The Impact …

  • When I finally made the move to DC – barely a month after I met Katie – it was an introduction from her to a then-executive with Hill & Knowlton that opened several doors for me here. That same executive introduced me to the-then Media Relations Director for Ruder Finn‘s DC office, and three months after starting my job hunt here, I was hired.
  • When I moved from Ruder Finn to a very large nonprofit, Katie was the person I called on to help me set a robust measurement program in place … and that ended up winning an award from the Institute of Public Relations.
  • When I was wondering whether Twitter would be good for anything other than finding out what someone had had for lunch, it was a conversation with Katie that set me straight.
  • When I thought about creating #measurePR, I called Katie to see if she thought it was a crazy idea. To her credit, she said, “I think it’s genius and WTF didn’t I think of it myself?!”
  • On Saturday, I’m heading to Orlando to present at PRSA’s International Conference. I’ll be presenting four years in a row … the first of which was in conjunction with Katie.

I know. Crazy, isn’t it?!

Katie has been – and is – a great friend and mentor to me, more times than she probably knows. All while she has lived through resurrecting her family home after a devastating fire and foreclosure, as well as breast cancer.

And whenever I remind her of what a critical force she has been/is in my life, she says, “I just opened the door. You did the rest.” Talk about modesty.

Is she omnipotent? Infallible? Probably not. But she is one of the best human beings it has been my privilege to come to know, and to call “friend.”

So not just from me, but on behalf of all of us, and our entire industry – happy birthday, Miss Katie. May you measure, and, live long and prosper.

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