We Learned a Lot from 2021, Didn’t We?

The Paine of Measurement, January 2022

Happy New Year, I guess… Between COVID, and local, national and global disasters, “happy” seems a bit of an exaggeration.

I wish I could just say, “The state of communications is strong!” But frankly, if 2021 is any indication, it’s a bit of mess. Between disinformation, misinformation, Big Lies, little lies, and muffled voices through masks—who the f*ck knows what 2022 will bring? Other than more disruption to the status quo.

So many “certainties” have been tossed out the window in the last year—or two.  Remember when we were all going to be back in the office by January? How’s that commute these days? Are you and your 2nd grader still sharing an office? When it has become normal for NPR reporters to be interrupted in their broadcasts by their dogs, who cares if your dog barks or your kid climbs into your lap during your Zoom meeting? 

The one thing we do know is that 2020 and 2021 brought dramatic changes to how we live, how we educate, how we work, and how we communicate. The “my life is in your face” reality of Zoom calls and the lack of face-to-face meetings and events have changed how we think about communicating. 

The year of thinking differently

I was recently asked for advice on how to best communicate an important and controversial issue going on in my town. A few years ago I would have suggested some press outreach, an FAQ on the town website, and some active social media efforts. Also a bunch of in-person “teas,” a New England tradition of small meetings with local residents in someone’s home (frequently mine).

Instead, I suggested 30-second video clips of subject matter experts addressing each of the five main points driving the decision, and an online forum of thought leaders and experts that could be recorded and shared. And to make sure everything was translated into Spanish, at least, if not Arabic and Chinese. (We’re a university town and we have a lot of foreign students and faculty who vote.)

Measuring audience

Those forms of outreach wouldn’t have crossed my mind three years ago. But we’re all thinking very differently these days. And that includes how we think about measurement. It’s not enough to think about measuring PR or measuring social. Today the operating principle is measuring audience:

  • Are you reaching the right people?
  • Are your messages tailored to those decision makers?
  • How do reach new audiences that you need but are clueless about?

Measurement can answer those questions, but only if we toss most of the metrics we’ve relied on for years and start looking for new ones.

Discard metrics that don’t bring you joy

You might want to take a modified Marie Kondo approach to your metrics: toss out any numbers that don’t make you smarter, and/or make you a better communicator. Those are the only ones worth keeping.

Yesterday I reviewed a corporate dashboard for a client that included no fewer than sixty different metrics. I asked them how many of those metrics leadership actually paid attention to. The answer was “three.” I asked them why they cared about the rest, and no one had an answer. They are revising their dashboard. ????

In this issue

So, we definitely did learn a lot from 2021, as you will read in this issue. All those learnings will make us better, more effective communicators. Here’s what we have for you this time around in The Measurement Advisor:

My best advice for your new year

The best advice I can offer is to keep on learning. Learning is the difference between informative metrics that will guide you to success in 2021, and those that you keep gathering only because they are there. And despite the current gloom we still have our fingers crossed that 2022 will bring everyone peace and a bit more love and happiness.

Measure on in the new year,

Thanks for the photo to Ross Findon on Unsplash.

About Author

Katie Paine

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