Don’t Muck Up Your Metrics

I just got an email from Muck Rack, informing me that “66% of PR pros say producing measurable results is the best way to increase the value of PR to key stakeholders.” I couldn’t agree more. In fact I’m generally in violent agreement with most of what Muck Rack says.

I certainly can’t argue with their conclusion that establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) for PR is essential. Which is why “How to create meaningful KPIs” is a big part of our Measurement Camp training course.

It’s when the email went on to list a number of “Essential metrics for PR teams” that I started screaming into a paper bag.

Let’s take #1: “Stories Placed” which respondents told Muck Rack was the single most important metric. Based on that metric, the PR folks at Boeing far exceeded all their KPIs. They’ve gotten “a placement” on at least one late-night comedy show every night. I know, I laugh at all of them. But I have to wonder, how many people who actually order airplanes are watching Seth Meyers?

Next up on the list is “Share of Voice” (SOV.) On it’s own, it tells you almost nothing. Yes, of course it is nice to know that your brand has a bigger bar than the other guys, but if it’s because doors fall off your planes and your planes fall out of the sky, it might not be something you want to brag about.

Much more meaningful is Share of Negative Voice — in other words, of all the bad stuff being said about your industry, how much is actually adhering to your brand as opposed to the opposition. Or if that’s too depressing a thing to show to leadership, at least show “Share of Positive Voice,” and brag about how your good PR is beating out their bad PR.

Third on the list is, of course, my nemesis: “AVE” (Ad Value Equivalency) — something the leaders in the industry, myself among them, rejected as a valid metric more than a decade ago. There’s a million reasons why they aren’t valid, and today they make less sense than ever, given how many better alternatives there are these days. They were invented in a day when PR was fighting for budget against Advertising, so you’d brag that this article was worth $1000000000 in AVEs — as if the VP would actually have moved his ad budget into PR based on your data. In over three decades of PR measurement, I can promise you that never happened.

Number four on their list is, of course, “Reach/Impressions,” another highly questionable metric. Never mind that the actual numbers are highly inflated and rarely reflect that actual number of humans that you actually “reached.” Most of those humans you allegedly reached are probably not in your target audience, if they even have the ability to purchase your product anyway.

Fifth on the list is “Sentiment” which can certainly be a valid metric if you have a product or service that evokes some sentiment. But if you’re selling complicated scientific equipment, you don’t see a lot of swooning over automated urinalysis analyzers.

Sixth on their list is “key message pull-though,” arguably the most meaningful metric on the entire list. Why it only ranks sixth on their list makes me question the AI prompt that came up with the list.

Seventh is “website traffic,” which I always advocate using as a key metric, as long at driving traffic is one of your objectives.

Last on their list is “Social engagement,” which ranks right up their with impressions on validity, given the proliferation of AI-driven bots these days.

Muck Rack, I love you guys, your newsletter rocks and so does your product, but you have your priorities all wrong. You are doing a grave disservice to your readers and customers by putting all the vanity metrics up front and leaving the most meaningful metrics of 2024 for the bottom of your list.

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