7 Measurement Skills That Cause Stress—and How to End the Anxiety

By Bill Paarlberg—Communications measurement is hard work. It demands several different but inter-related skills, and some of those are made even more difficult by the anxiety they cause. Whether it is mathematics, public speaking, or trying to wrestle meaning from your data, most of us find some aspect of measurement to be stressful.

The good news is that there are tried and true methods to upgrade your expertise and thereby eliminate the agita. Let’s look at the stressful parts of measurement one at a time. Recognize any you need to improve?

1. Setting business-oriented goals

What you are doing wrong: Facebook likes, YouTube views, and Twitter shares are easy to measure, but they generally don’t reveal anything about how your efforts helped your business or organization. So you may be measuring the wrong thing.

Why the agita: You haven’t had to express your work in these terms before. And what are “these terms” anyway? What the heck are “business-oriented goals?”

Chillax: It’s not that hard to figure out; just get your boss or boss’s boss to describe what business impact he or she expects from you. Then figure out how the stuff you do every day relates to those expectations. Check back in with your boss to make sure that you are in agreement.

How to improve: These articles in The Measurement Advisor are a good place to start:

There’s always YouTube: Start with this…

How to display your new skills to the world: Change what you measure. Improve your comms faster. Get a raise.

2. Throwing data over the cubicle wall

What you are doing wrong: Far too often, when communicators get a barrage of data from their social listening, media monitoring, or other analytics tools, they just throw it into a document and present it to the boss. But it’s meaningless without any context or benchmark or analysis.

Got angst? Thinking about data can be difficult: how do you even know where to start? Math and statistics can be stressful if you’re not confident in your skills. (See point 3. below.)

How to improve: These articles will help:

Neat trick: Next time you’re staring down the summary stats of your data, ask “So what?” three times. What does the data say about the overall goals for your department or division? What does it tell you about something that matters? Now compare it to the competition, or to what you did last quarter, or to some other similar activity. Then ask “So what?” again to see how it relates to other parts of the business or your department.

How to display your new skills to the world: Start telling the stories that your data tells you.

3. Statistics

What you are doing wrong: If you’re not comfortable with correlations and confidence intervals then you will find it very difficult to analyze or report on your data.

Got angst? You’re allergic to math. You’re afraid of working with numbers because you were never that good at it. And there was that scary math teacher back in 8th grade.

You can learn it: Stats skills don’t just happen, you’ve got to put in some effort. Sign up for an online course, or check out the local community college Stats 101.

There’s always YouTube: Brandon Flotz has a great series.

How to display your new skills to the world: Put your course certificate up on the wall. Name-drop articles from fivethirtyeight.com. Analyze some data.

4. Excel

What you are doing wrong: It’s an indispensable tool, but you don’t know how to use it.

Why the agita: Isn’t it hard to learn?

How to improve: Start here: How to Learn Excel Online: 13 Bookmarkable Resources for Excel Training

There’s always YouTube: Here’s Katie Paine’s how-to series:

How to display your new skills to the world: Use Excel to analyze some data for your next presentation.

5. Google Analytics

What you are doing wrong: Google Analytics provides the single most important set of metrics for every communicator. Without Google Analytics in your quiver you’ve got nothing.

Why the agita: You got nothing. And you know it.

Chillax: Start here: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics. Then, watch our video on how to set up Goal Conversions. And of course, Google offers a ton of training, as does pretty much every PR organization around. Once you’ve got it set up on your laptop (which can be daunting, maybe ask someone for help) just wander around in there and explore it. It’s huge.

Avinash for the win: If you are serious about Google Analytics, then go visit Avinash Kaushik’s blog.

How to display your new skills to the world: Analyze and report on some web data. Track some goal conversions. Start talking “time on site,” and “bounce rate.”

6. Keeping records

What you are doing wrong: You are not tracking the effort and activity that contributes to your results.

Why the angst: You, literally, don’t know what you’ve been doing. So you don’t know what, if anything, made a difference. Without data on what you’ve been doing you can’t attribute your results to any of your efforts.

How to improve: It doesn’t matter if you track activities in Excel or Word or whatever. The important thing is to keep track of every inbound and outbound call, every event, and every campaign that you devoted time or resources to. That way you can compare the results of one effort to another. Hint: this is what A/B testing is all about.

How to display your new skills: Correlate your efforts with your results and you’ll really wow the boss.

7. Presentations

What you are doing wrong: You can’t speak in public. No, no, no.

Why the angst: Stage fright. Sweaty-palm, knee-knocking, paralysis-inducing stage fright.

Chillax: It really, really helps to have confidence in what you are presenting. So, don’t even consider a presentation unless you’re 100% sure of your material. Start with this article: 7 Expert Analysis and Presentation Techniques to Gain Insights From Your Data.

Quick podium tip: No matter how nervous you are when you get up there, pretend that you are calm and relaxed. Move slowly, speak slowly, smile just a little. Act calm and your mind will follow.

You can always Google “stage fright”: Here, we just did it for you.

How to display your new skills to the world: Prepare and deliver a presentation to your group. Take a bow.


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About Author

Bill Paarlberg

Bill Paarlberg is the Editor of The Measurement Advisor. He has been editing and writing about measurement for over 20 years. He was the development and copy editor for "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, winner of the 2013 Terry McAdam Book Award.