When the measurement industry began it was run primarily by women, and now it’s run by men. Why? This is the question that prompted us to begin The MeasHERment Interview, a series that has grown to encompass a broad look at the unique challenges and experiences of successful women in measurement. Our goals include a desire to recognize strong female role models, and to nurture female industry leaders.
Katie Delahaye Paine was just awarded the 2019 Jack Felton Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Institute for Public Relations. This award is given “…for lifetime contributions in the advancement of research, measurement and evaluation in public relations and corporate communication.” And so it’s a perfect time to interview her.
Katie is the publisher of this newsletter. She started the first of her several measurement companies in 1986 and has been an outspoken speaker, consultant, and all-around measurement booster ever since. Below she talks with Measurement Advisor Editor Bill Paarlberg. Katie and Bill have worked together for at least 25 years, through several books, newsletters, businesses, and close to a couple dozen measurement conferences. (Click here to learn more about the Fall 2019 16th Annual Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.)
The Measurement Advisor: Hello Katie, thanks for agreeing to The Measurement Advisor’s MeasHERment Interview.
Katie Paine: How could I refuse? ?
On receiving the ultimate award in measurement
TMA: So you’ve just won the Jack Felton Medal. Congratulations! Is there any higher award in measurement? Where do you go from here?
KDP: There is no higher award. Jack Felton was a mentor and dear friend and he was the impetus behind IPR’s Measurement Commission. He used to give out a “Golden Ruler of Measurement” award and I was one of the first recipients, but there were probably only 10 other people in the industry at the time. In the 20+ years since then, the IPR has evolved into a very important organization, there are hundreds of vendors, and communications measurement is now a requirement in most companies. So this honor from my peers in the industry means a tremendous amount. In terms of where I go from here? As long as people are still producing bad metrics and not able to show their true value to senior leadership, my mission is not accomplished.
TMA: For a feisty outspoken person like yourself, this must be some serious validation. I mean, you had to award about 20 years’ worth of Measurement Menaces to get where you are. Do you think that your, well, strong personality was a key to getting this?
KDP: I’m not sure whether it was because of or despite my outspokenness. I’ve been known as the provocateur of the industry for nearly as long as I’ve been in it. Mostly because I am incapable of keeping my mouth shut when I see someone doing bad or ill-informed measurement.
TMA: You know, Nobel Prize winners typically become less productive after winning. So you think that’s going to happen to you? Rest on your laurels? Somehow I doubt it.
KDP: Not a chance, I’m having too much fun.
Let’s hear about you
TMA: Our readers know you quite well in certain ways, but perhaps not in others. So tell us about your hobbies, phobias, and/or pets.
KDP: This photograph captures most of my passions. The love of my life is my grand-puppy Princess Leia. She actually belongs to my friend and neighbor Doug Chapin, I’m just her official spoiler and provider of treats. She’s a great Pyrenees whose job it is to guard the family farm and save my chickens from the foxes, raptors, and other predators. That’s her sitting on my dock. A few weeks ago a hawk took off with one of my chickens and Leia chased it and made it drop it! That’s her job and she’s good at it.
My other great love is boats, sailing, the Oyster River, and New Hampshire’s Great Bay. My favorite thing to do after a long hard day of analyzing data is to grab a beer (preferably a Laguinitas Summer Session IPA) and float around the Oyster River for awhile.
I have a serious phobia about spiders. I was bitten by a brown recluse, and that was really awful. I had a temperature of 104 and was flat on my back for five days. The hospital gave me antibiotics and said, “We hope these work.”
TMA: I know one of your superpowers is gardening. Any other extraordinary abilities I’m not aware of after all this time?
KDP: Gardening is only half of it. What makes it worthwhile is to take whatever I have growing in my garden (or I’ve frozen from the summer before) and create a gourmet meal without ever having to go to the store.
TMA: Yes, I’ve experienced lots of your meals that seem to grow effortlessly from your kitchen, assembling themselves with little effort on your part. I think your “grunt” dessert is the ultimate expression of that. Can you give our readers your recipe?
KDP: Sure. Take some fruit—whatever you have handy on a bush or a tree nearby: rhubarb, apples, blueberries, peaches—slice it up and put it in a well-buttered 6 x 9 pan. Sprinkle with yellow cake mix—yes, just the dry stuff. Dot with butter. Bake for about 40 minutes at 300 and you’re done.
TMA: Tell us something about you that helps to explain why you are interested in measurement, evaluation, and research.
KDP: It started with my fundamental insecurity and need for self-preservation. When I was trying to climb the corporate ladder in Silicon Valley in the ’80s, all I had was an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies. I was always trying to make an argument for more budget (I’m guessing most of our readers can relate). And I was totally intimidated by all the engineers and techie types I had to pitch my ideas to. One day I was sitting in on a meeting and suddenly realized that words just didn’t work on them. So I started making presentations using charts and graphs and numbers and whoa! my budgets got approved!
“You’re never wrong you’re just early.”
Then I went to Lotus Development. I was the 9th Director of Corporate Communications in 5 years, so I decided that I had to demonstrate my value or I’d quickly be out of a job. I analyzed our media coverage to see how much of it left people more likely to purchase our products and how much left them less likely to purchase. After I presented my results, Bob Strayton, the head of our agency, said, “Anyone who isn’t using this type of analysis by the year 2000 doesn’t deserve to be in business.” Which leads me to my motto: “You’re never wrong you’re just early.” And when I went out on my own, Strayton became my first client.
TMA: What was the measurement industry like back then? Did people even recognize measurement as a thing? Was it called measurement?
KDP: It was definitely called measurement, but it consisted of the Thud Factor: how many clips did you accumulate in a month? It wasn’t until I started thinking about my objectives—getting messages across to key audiences—that I came up with my media content analysis concept that became Delahaye Analysis, the basis of my first measurement company, The Delahaye Group.
“Data without insight is just trivia.”
—Delahaye Group ad slogan
The big issue was that it was incredibly labor intensive, and at first I was doing all the analysis myself. But I had gotten a suite of software when I left Lotus, so I was doing it all in Lotus 1-2-3. They’d purchased a graphing software company, so it was pretty easy to crunch the numbers and put it all into a pretty presentation. Then I found an intern who could read the stuff for me, and The Delahaye Group was born.
TMA: So how many other companies were doing any sophisticated measurement back then? How many other measurement vendors were there? How hard was it to convince a prospective client that they should buy your services?
KDP: I started The Delahaye Group in 1986 and there was one other company that I know of doing measurement at the time, PR Data. There was a smattering of corporate types and Walt Lindemann at Ketchum. It wasn’t hard to pitch the concept of measurement, it was just hard to get anyone to pay for it. Companies thought it was the job of the agency, and agencies didn’t budget for it.
TMA: Tell us a story of when you really knew you were onto something.
KDP: Well, I remember the first time I showed an engineer one of our measurement charts at Lotus. I was trying to talk him out of doing a useless event at a trade show. I showed him how much more expensive that would be on a “cost per message communicated” basis and he said simply, “Okay then, we’ll do it your way.” And I knew I was on the right path.
But there’s another one that really stands out, it was during a presentation for Digital Equipment, way back in the day. They were generating publicity through a variety of campaigns, and the goal was to get messages across to tech buyers. We reviewed all their coverage and tagged it for the source of the coverage and whether or not it contained one or more key messages. So I presented this chart to a room full of at least 20 engineers:
Yep, it’s pretty simple and obvious as charts go nowadays, but it was a real eye-opener at the time. It was obvious that executive interviews (which the executives hated doing) were the most effective way to get messages out. Contract wins and press releases around industry issues (which everyone hated doing and took forever to get approved) were least effective. What do you know, all those engineers agreed with my advice!
And speaking of measurement advice…
TMA: What is your single best short piece of measurement advice?
KDP: You learn more from failure than success, so analyze what didn’t work first.
“You learn more from failure than success, so analyze what didn’t work first.”
TMA: What advice do you have for women on their way up in the measurement industry?
So get your degree in data analytics, and understand AI. Embrace and study all forms of research, from data analytics to polling to media content analysis. Then apply what you know about communications to interpreting that data. Never forget that you are measuring communication’s impact on a target audience. That’s what matters—not big numbers, impressions, or other meaningless metrics.
Let’s talk about measurement and gender roles…
TMA: Two or three decades ago there seemed to be more female measurement entrepreneurs than males. Yet today there are few women in top leadership. Why do you think that is?
KDP: Back in the late ’90s, when computer-aided analysis came onto the scene, the people behind it were all technology types and mostly male. They were looking for the next big technology thing and their mentality was very much based in the Silicon Valley start-up world. The goal was to invest in tech, do everything as cheaply as possible, and get rid of as many human tasks as possible. The people-centric types like me couldn’t compete and couldn’t get the venture funding to invest in the technology we needed to compete.
TMA: You have never seemed to me to be a person who felt their gender to be a particular advantage or disadvantage to anything business related. But has that really been true? At the time you started your first—or second, or third—measurement business, did you feel you were doing any sort of great or unusual thing because of your gender? Was it unusual for a woman to be in that role?
KDP: I was incredibly fortunate to be raised in the 50s and 60s by a mother who worked 12 hours a day as editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Not only was my mother a strong, powerful working woman, but so were all of her friends. It was totally normal for me to hang out at the magazine after school with half a dozen dynamic and energetic female editors, and watch how they determined the hem lengths and fabric choices for half the planet. Being female and being successful in business just seemed normal for me. But, in general of course, it was incredibly rare in the 60s and 70s.
“Good” mothers didn’t work back then. I remember I was in the third grade and someone asked me why my mother wasn’t at the PTA meeting. I said she had to work. And they said, “Why? Are you, poor?”
TMA: Have you experienced any particular help or hindrance during your career because of your gender?
KDP: Until I got back to New Hampshire from Silicon valley in the mid-’80s, I wasn’t confronted with gender bias. When I was first starting my own business, men didn’t take me seriously. There was no way venture capitalists were giving a lot of money to women back in the ’90s.
But in a strange way having a very tight budget helped me build a unique business. I was able to attract the best of the best young people—smart strong women, and a few men—who wanted to work hard, play hard, and be part of the family at The Delahaye Group. Ours was a unique culture that could only have been fostered by a woman as fearlessly stupid and enthusiastic and stubborn as I was. We did treat women equally back in the day, which wasn’t that common, I suppose. We didn’t just let people “bring their daughters to work,” they brought their dogs, their kids, and once even a lamb.
TMA: Because of your gender have you had to compensate or be more aggressive or consciously manipulate situations to adapt?
KDP: I think I might have done better had I did so, but not really. Way back, aggressive females weren’t necessarily well-liked or appreciated. That didn’t get you anywhere. When I was at Fujitsu, (first place I ever did measurement, actually, in 1982) that was really a male dominated society. I wore a man’s suit to work every day and my official nickname was “Pushy-broad.” They had never come across anyone like me. But I wasn’t compensating, I was just being myself.
TMA: In recent years we have heard much about gender inequity and harassment in the workplace. Is there any reason to believe the comms or measurement industry is different from other industries in this respect?
KDP: What do you think? Of course we have our own version of the casting couch. I was told by my boss at an agency that I should sleep with a client if that’s what it took to keep the account. So much for thinking your professional expertise was enough. And of course I’ve had bosses that kissed me without permission. At the time I just assumed that’s how men in charge behaved in the workplace.
TMA: Have you observed—or experienced yourself—any obvious instances of gender bias, stereotyping, or exploitation in the measurement industry?
KDP: You have several different concepts here. Is there gender bias? Yes, as we wrote when we began this series, most of the people on the front lines of measurement today are men. Women tend to be relegated to the office, and women speakers are rare in communications conferences and as authority figures. Like Claire Mason said here, “Promoting Say Equality: The Role of PR in Closing the Gender Say Gap,” I think there should be a boycott of conferences that don’t have an equal number of women speakers.
Is there stereotyping and exploitation? Not as much. I think our industry is so new that it avoided the worst of sexist business culture. By the time measurement developed as an industry, business-wide norms were already beginning to change.
TMA: OK, Katie, let’s wrap this up. Congrats again on the Jack Felton Medal and thanks for the interview!
KDP: A pleasure to talk with you, Bill. And now I’m going back out to the garden.
To learn more about Katie Paine, check out this podcast. ∞