From the Desk of Katie Paine–
Communicating effectively can be challenging even when you’re speaking the same language. But when you’re traveling overseas, there’s a whole new level of challenge. Mostly I find that I depend on taxi drivers and others who speak English the way I speak French—remembering enough from grammar school to count to ten and find a library.
Last month, as I was coming in from the airport to my hotel in Vienna, I had a garrulous taxi driver who grilled me on my life, marital status, and passions. I got across the idea of social media and I think evaluation and that I was in Vienna for a conference. I said I was from the States, and he said “where?” and I said “near Boston,” and he said “which state?” I said New Hampshire. (Amazingly most of the people I met knew about New Hampshire, thanks to our First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary.) I explained that, yes I did see candidates, but wasn’t directly involved as I lived on a farm, a bit off the beaten track.
It turned out that he was raised on a farm, which he missed very much. I explained that I had my own business and an office on the farm, traveled a lot, and also raised chickens and grew vegetables. He explained that he had many fond memories from farm life, but had come to the city because he had a family of which he was very proud and drove a cab to support them. He then asked a question that stopped me in my tracks:
“What for?” he said. “What for you do all this work?”
I did my best to explain that it was a family farm, and that it was simply my personal passion. Of course the idea of a “family farm” without a family was incomprehensible to him. And the task of explaining that my business mission is to get people to measure their results more accurately and with more insight was too much for his English or my German. So I resorted to, “I love it.”
And then it struck me that I sounded like many PR and social media people who never stop to answer the question “What for?” As in, “What for you do all this posting and sharing and media relations and content production?”
In truth, most PR and social media folks are just as passionate about what they do as I am about my chickens, growing my own food, good measurement, and killing AVEs. But also like me, they don’t stop and ask the ultimate “What for?” question: What is the benefit to the business of all the activity? And—trust me, after nearly 30 years in this business—“I love it” is not an acceptable answer for the C-suite.
I’m not quite sure I can answer the “What for?” question for my long-term personal life. But I do know that, while my mission is to get everyone to do measurement right, be it through consulting, publishing, or training, ultimately there is a bottom line called the taxes and a mortgage. And I have less tangible measures of success too, like the chance to share the farm with friends and colleagues, as in this fall’s Measurement Summit. And maybe even pass it on to the next generation. So I measure goal conversions, lead quality, and profit and loss. Not because I’m a numbers geek, but because it helps me know I’m at least working towards the mission.
“What for we did all this?” is the question that every PR and social media person should be asking. Not just when they start their job, but every time they produce their monthly report. If they ask that question and their only answer is “get more AVEs,” then they should start questioning how they spend their time.
Most of my clients, if I asked them, would say that they wanted to change the world, or repair an image, or get more people to be as excited about the future as they are. That’s what makes people get up in the morning and look forward to work. And if they’re doing measurement right, they’ll connect the dots between all that activity and the outcomes. And if you don’t know how to do that, then call me (603-682-0735), I can help. ∞
(Thanks to Idealist Careers for the image)
Paine Publishing provides communications measurement training and education. Katie Delahaye Paine provides customized measurement training and services.