The Case of the Chaotic Clips… Or, Why Measurement Standards Just Might Save Your Job



By Katie Delahaye Paine—This story has been modified to protect the innocent, but I’m sure you’ll find it familiar enough. Acme Worldwide, Inc. had a major announcement to make and chose to do it at a global industry conference. The word went out to all the offices in 30 countries: A major research study would be announced the same day. PR offices around the globe scheduled interviews, press conferences, and events in order to maximize exposure around the event and the announcement.

All this effort required major investments in resources, so each country was instructed to make sure they monitored and collected all local coverage. The results were spectacular: Goals were met, targets were exceeded, and everyone was happy.

Except for one particular VP who pounced on a chart that showed coverage by country. It looked like this:

chart of clips by country

The VP congratulated the staff in Poland for their excellent work. Then she did a fast calculation, dividing the number of clips for each country by the size of the PR team in each country. Offices in the rest of the world had brought in a fraction of the results per staff member that Poland’s did, but with much larger staffs. She concluded that she could rid herself of lots of expensive staff around the world, and reached for a pile of pink slips.

But wait… Her reasoning was based on the data, and her conclusion might actually have been defensible, if only the data had been vetted and the collection methods had been standard around the world.

It only took  only a little bit of digging to discover that the definitions of “clip” and “mention” were very different from country to country. Turns out most countries were using the industry standard definitions: Press releases picked up verbatim on irrelevant news sites don’t count, and an item of coverage is different from a “mention” in a story that might mention the brand multiple times. Poland, on the other hand, was defining every “mention” of the brand anywhere—including multiple times in one story—as a “clip.”

The solution was easy: A copy of the standard definitions and coding book were sent around to all the company’s offices. The client then dictated that going forward all agencies and country PR staff would use the standard definitions for collection and reports.

So next time you need an argument as to why you should adopt measurement standards and sign the pledge, just remember: You could be one bad data set away from losing half your department. ∞

Thanks to The Gutsball Blog for the image.

About Author

Katie Paine

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