What Snowmageddon Taught Me About Measuring Public Relations

measuring deep snow

Even if all you have is a ruler, your metric doesn’t have to be inches.

It’s snowing again. Hardly news here in New Hampshire this time of year. My as-yet-unshoveled walkway shows about 12 inches so far today. All just a dusting compared to the 30 inches we got over 24 hours last week. That amazing day was #Snowmageddon, and it provides some wonderful lessons in measurement.

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I started the day at 5 a.m., with a cup of coffee in the hot tub and an eye toward measuring the predicted “historic” snowfall that had begun overnight. By the time I was warmed up and my coffee was cold, the pathway had about 5 inches on it, the wind was starting to howl, and drifts were forming. I needed a spot to measure the snowfall that was out of the wind and easily accessible. Luckily, there’s a deck about 20 feet from my desk. Since I could get to it and it was an area somewhat sheltered from the wind, I started taking regular measurements there.

—7:30 a.m.: I got out my trusty old-fashioned wooden ruler and stuck it in the snow.

—8:30 a.m.: The ruler was buried by an inch or two:

ruler in snow

—10:30 a.m.: I switched to the full-fledged industrial tape measure; snow now over 20 inches:

measuring tape in snow

I’ve never seen snow fall that fast: Nearly 3 inches an hour.

measuring tape in snow

—Mid-afternoon: 28 inches and it was still coming down:

measuring tape in snow

—Nightfall: It had slowed down significantly. The official tally was 30 inches.

So what can we learn about public relations measurement from two and a half feet of snow?

Lesson 1: Measure what you can. I purposefully chose to measure our snow in a spot that was easily accessible. Do the same with your measurement: There’s no point in setting up a measurement program that is just too hard to implement.

Lesson #2: Measure consistently. While the back deck wasn’t perfect, I could measure the same spot every hour without having to don my snow pants and full weather gear, and it wasn’t going to get disturbed by snow blowers or the wind. In business you want to measure consistently, too. Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, you need to measure the same parameters each time.

Lesson #3: Use the right tool for the job. When the snow got too deep I switched to a brand new, easy-to-read carpenter’s tape measure. If your program is expanding and you need better tools, switch. Don’t try to make do with an antiquated measurement system. Your metrics won’t be accurate and you’ll waste more time than it’s worth trying to update it.

Lesson #4: Look beyond the easy stuff: Measure the change. Sure I could measure the quantity of snow, but what was much more interesting was the rate of the snow fall. And that was what got me a mention and a photo on the local public radio blog. It was a simple calculation, but not one the rest of the backyard snow watchers were making.

So don’t just count followers, count follower growth. Don’t just count clips, count the % increase in desirable clips. That way if the rate slows, you know something is changing. ∞

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.