The Adventures of Sherpa Sheila: Overcoming Objections to Measurement

Sign: "Warning: Negativity Ahead"

This is one of The Measurement Advisor’s ongoing series on the measurement adventures of Sherpa Sheila, a somewhat fictional PR and social media data analyst.

Sherpa Sheila

Sherpa Sheila knows her way around the data.

Sherpa Sheila was fresh back from a conference and all psyched up to start measuring. She’d spent all day in a workshop developing the outline of her measurement plan. She had her goals, her measureable SMART objectives, and a set of metrics that she was sure would put her on the fast track to her next promotion. Sheila was half-way through her Masters in communications, and a project like this was exactly what she’d been training for.

She wrote it all up in a proposal and proudly presented it to her boss. She figured that the $20K price tag would be no-brainer. It was less than 10% of the overall communications budget—less than 5% if you included paid media. What’s not for management to love?

What she hadn’t counted on was the apathy and lack of understanding that greeted her proposal:

  • The new Vice President, fresh out of a marketing role for a major consumer brand, didn’t think PR could be measured. And even if it could, the numbers were so small it didn’t much matter.
  • Her Director appreciated Sheila’s efforts, but felt that it was just too big a project for her to take on right now, given all the other priorities.
  • Even her Manager was lukewarm on the idea, saying that it was a nice to know but not a necessity.

Sheila took a few deep breaths, had little a walk around the building, and then indulged in a minor rant to her best friend. She went home for the day, had a drink (actually several), and watched a few episodes of Madam Secretary and Scandal for inspiration. Then she came up with a plan.

The next day, she cornered her Manager in the elevator and explained the downside of not measuring:

“You know that we waste a lot of time and money on things that probably don’t work. We’re being so reactive now, anyone who comes in with a project just expects us to do it. If this keeps up, we’ll need another headcount to keep our internal clients happy. If we knew which projects worked or didn’t work we’d be much more efficient.”

Sheila then suggested a pilot program that could be measured using the resources she currently had available: Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Google News, and Twitter Analytics. She’d measure the promotional effort for one project that was a total PITA (Pain in the Ass): a joint announcement of an industry effort that took weeks to get everyone to sign off on. Her plan was to compare it to a corporate responsibility announcement around the awarding of scholarships. Both took up about the same amount of internal resources. But the scholarship announcement had clear goals (drive traffic to a specific website and generate engagement and amplification of messages in social media) and, most importantly, there was a solid strategy to get to those goals.

She used the same metrics on both projects and to no one’s surprise her hunches were correct. The joint industry announcement did little to spread key messages or drive traffic. But the CR announcement drove a 30% increase in follower growth and doubled time on site and new visits to the website.

Her Manager was impressed enough to show the Director, who of course asked how long the report had taken Sheila to produce. “Less than four hours,” the manager said. “If we could just eliminate one or two of these PITA projects we could probably avoid asking for another headcount in the next quarter.”

“Sold!” said the Director. “That $20,000 she wants to spend on measurement looks a lot better than the $200K in fully loaded costs of another body.” Sherpa Sheila smiled, and started to think about her next measurement project. ∞

Thanks to TST Aviation for the image.

About Author

Katie Paine

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