purple hand

(Please note: This piece originally appeared as a free article in the early June 2016 edition of The Measurement Advisor newsletter.)

Most of my days are spent solving highly complex measurement problems. Projects that require reams of data, a very long time to set up, and a lot of Excel pivot tables. I’m so used to working with complicated measurement that I had a hard time thinking of a Measurement Maven for our “Simple Measurement” issues. I kept asking myself, “Who would be the perfect example of simplicity in measurement?”

Then I realized that the most accomplished of Measurement Mavens are those who face complex measurement challenges yet solve them with simple metrics. Those that “Just Do It” as Nike wold say (and if there was an entry for that in Wikipedia, it would have a picture of Elizabeth Fry next to it).

We’ve told part of her story before. Elizabeth was Head of Media Analysis for NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). NATO was faced with an unimaginably complex measurement challenge: Put meaningful metrics around PR for a program that had “no further outbreak of hostilities” as a measure of success. So Elizabeth (and NATO) asked for my help, and this became one more complex measurement problem on my list. How to evaluate a program that has the goal “keep communications flowing and maintain peace in a war zone in which media is being used as a weapon of war and propaganda is the order of the day?”

As with all measurement programs, once you’ve articulated the goals or desired business outcomes the next step is to figure out how senior leadership expects communications to contribute to those goals. In this case, we had the help of about 100 public affairs officers from throughout NATO to brainstorm the specifics.

Despite the plethora of perspectives—there were representations from all 28 NATO countries—2 themes clearly emerged:

  1. Keep local opposition to NATO to a minimum, and
  2. Generate sufficient support for NATO so that its members continued to fund the organization.

In public affairs, that translated to local stories in key media that both communicated key messages (either in words or pictures) and left the reader feeling less likely to oppose NATO.

With this guidance in hand we identified key quality criteria for media coverage based on the idea that media was successful if it left a reader more likely to support NATO’s efforts and less likely to oppose them. From there it was a question of creating a simple Excel spreadsheet and finding the right person (Martin Gourgue) to collect and analyze the clips. Within months they were using the data to make better decisions.

So to everyone out there that thinks measurement is too complicated a task to tackle right now, get over it. If 100+ communicators from 28 countries can agree on goals and metrics and take the plunge, so can you. ∞

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