I apologize for my earlier tone, which you may have perceived to be ungracious. What may have appeared to be a pout was just my impatience. And I really wasn’t shouting, just trying to get myself heard above all those damn bells.
I realize now that it wasn’t my personal behavior that prohibited you from delivering all that I demanded last year, nor was I insufficiently nice. I realize now that I was, perhaps, uncharacteristically demanding; maybe I over-reached. But the night before Christmas a girl can dream can’t she?
It’s not that I’m ungrateful for what you did bring me. I really think you did as well as a Santa can in these times. For instance, you didn’t deliver the perfect Influence Mood Ring, but at least communications professionals are getting better at targeting those people that actually do have some influence. And kudos to you Santa for bringing a whole bunch of us more data on marketing and sales and business. You know that has been on my list for years, and—surprise surprise—it’s finally happening.
Yet, I’ll admit I’m still a little miffed that you still haven’t finished my Audience Happiness Meter, particularly because I’ve already thought up some great enhancement for Version 2.0, but more on that in a minute. You still have a ways to go to rid the earth of unwanted metrics, but you did make a great start, so thank you for that. And you did get Apple to deliver on the Podcast Meter, so thank you for that!
That having been said, with all due humility and per the established parameters of our relationship, I do have a few teeny-weeny requests on my wish list for 2019 that I hope you’ll find it in your heart to deliver this time around. So here’s my Letter to Santa. And, yes, per your note last year, I have cleaned out my chimney and fireplace in anticipation of your descent.
1. An Automatic Trust-O-Meter Sensor
Santa, couldn’t you just adapt a meat thermometer for trust detection? Something we could insert into a crowd—or a cat for that matter. It would sense the mood of the crowd—or cat—and help us measure its trust level and know whether it was about to lash out and scratch—literally or figuratively?
Okay, Santa, I can see you rolling your eyes, but just think how many problems it would solve. Companies could reach out to their stakeholders with this probe and discover that, as a result of their most recent BS press release, their trust levels were tumbling. And then they could take corrective action. Or better yet, that as a result of a recent rule change, employee loyalty was skyrocketing. It could do wonders for the accuracy of polling!
The reality is that we do have tools today (the Advertising Benchmark Index (ABX) for example) that can provide the answers, they’re just not used often enough, and they don’t all ask the right questions. (And, dear readers, while we wait for Santa to come down the chimney with my Trust-o-Meter, you can take a look at our “Guide to Trust: How to Get It, Keep It, Measure It, and Regain It” to bridge the gap.)
2. The Perfect Filter System
All communications today suffers from either too many filters or not enough. Far too many companies and their agencies filter out bad news, suppress customer complaints, and stifle employee feedback. I was recently trying to leave a review about a repair service and it only let me put in 5 stars! Needless to say, neither the -10 I wanted to give them, nor the words that accompanied it, were acceptable to their system.
The problem is that the fastest way to a crisis is to ignore the comments and feelings of your stakeholders. When people think companies aren’t listening, they go to people who will: their friends on Facebook, their elected representatives, or their lawyers. And it’s a short step from finding people who agree with you to a mob with pitchforks at the proverbial gates. So wouldn’t you rather hear them and deal with them, than be compelled to by Congress, a lawsuit, or the competition eating your lunch?
The other side is even worse. The lack of good filters in all of our measurement systems means that tons of irrelevant content, spam, and bot-generated junk end up in our metrics. It takes significant time and effort to get rid of it. So, Santa, can you please, please ask your AI team to put its efforts into new and smarter filters?
3. Excel for All: Mandatory Pivot Tables in Middle School
In these data-drenched times, one of the few things we all agree on is that we need more data analysis and insight. To survive in this century you don’t just need to know your multiplication tables. You need to be able to cross tab them, invert them, and analyze the heck out of them. Manipulating and understanding data has become a core business skill.
But there are far too few people who know how to analyze data. Most bad decisions are made because someone wasn’t looking at good data, or the right data, or any data at all. We can no longer tolerate the trope that “PR is for people who don’t like math.” Math is for everyone and part of math should be using Excel and specifically pivot tables to analyze data.
So, Santa, can you ask your elves to sprinkle a little analytics fairy dust over all elementary school classrooms and get them studying the things they need to learn? (In the meantime, readers, you might want to watch our video on how to create Pivot Tables in Excel.)
4. A Risk Assessment Assessment / Whack-to-the-Head Device
Most communications pros have a pretty good sense of when their CEO or senior leadership team is about to make a boneheaded move. You know that move—the kind that forces the PR team to work around the clock for at least a week to protect the organization’s reputation. The trouble is that the lawyers, or the finance guys, or some other clueless individuals with too much ego and power, are putting profits over the “squishy stuff” like reputation, trust, and brand equity.
What we need in situations like this is a Reputation Risk Assessment tool that will use data to predict the customer or public response, and factor in experience with other reputational crises. Then it automatically delivers a whack up the side of the head to each decision maker who votes in favor of the boneheaded move. Ideally the strength and pain of the whack would automatically increase in proportion to the outrage your stakeholders will feel.
5. A Magic Consistency Wand
Santa, can you please, please help our industry do something about the lack of transparency and consistency in measurement? It’s why the IPR created its standards and why The Conclave was created. Yet the inconsistency Grinch sticks around like a bad case of herpes. I find inconsistency everywhere: in the language we use to describe our metrics, our criteria, and our methodologies. In survey work when you’re trying to compare pre/post surveys, chances are you’ll find inconsistency in date ranges, age ranges, and even salary categories. And no matter how consistent you may try to be in your RFP process, I promise you that participating vendors will have at least three different interpretations of what you thought was clear as a bell. So, Santa, a Magic Consistency Wand that will deal with this would be so great.
6. Automatic CPM Calculations
Santa, if you want to find out who’s been naughty, look no farther than all those agencies and communications professionals who report on raw impressions without any cost calculation. As in “This campaign generated 7 trillion impressions!” The point of measurement is to understand how much it cost you to get that result, and to help you decide if what you did is more or less efficient than something else. The good old Cost Per Thousand (CPM) calculation has long been accepted in paid marketing efforts. (For those of you readers who aren’t familiar with it, CPM is calculated by taking the budget for the campaign and dividing it by the number of impressions divided by 1000.)
Impressions alone are meaningless unless put into the context of alternate costs. So why can’t technology—which has gotten so good at reading our minds and auto filling everything—just automatically insert a dollar figure into those calculations? If nothing else, Santa, can you just put coal in the stocking of everyone who uses raw impressions? On second thought, we don’t want to encourage the use of fossil fuels, so perhaps a rotten egg instead.
7. Adoption of My New Org Chart
Santa, you’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t piss off anyone with my proposed new organizational chart for the business world. Here’s the most important part of it:
But I am having a hard time getting any company to try it out. Perhaps you and your reindeer could do a bit of persuasion for me. You know the routine: you hover over their house and say, “Nice roof you got there, too bad if something happened to it…” I’m sure they’d take your suggestion.
Thank you Santa,
P.S. This letter to Santa was inspired by the ever-brilliant NHPR reporter Sean Hurley, who, after a particularly sodden summer, wrote this eloquent letter to Rain. It’s even better when you listen to him read it; his voice is amazing.