This piece originally appeared as a free article in the Late November edition of The Measurement Advisor newsletter.


From the Desk of Katie Paine—The other day my neighbor sent me a picture of “Evening Light”—a glorious sunset waning over my farm, full of classic New England fall foliage. That’s it above. At the time, I happened to be in Dallas, in a hotel near Love Field airport. So I sent him back my shot of “Evening Light in Dallas”—a photo of what passed for sunset out my window. It’s a picture full of tarmac, planes, and automobiles:


I was being ironic. But he responded with an enthusiastic “Looks good!” and a long excerpt from his favorite book on the history of Love Field.

My neighbor is a pilot. He loves airplanes and airports. What I saw as ugly, he saw as beautiful. And that’s where the lesson lies: Anyone could have posted the beautiful, crowd-pleasing picture, and gotten millions of “impressions.” But one unusual and arguably ugly photo could have inspired a visit to Dallas—if you had targeted your recipient correctly.

There have been several recent stories on both Ted Cruz’s use of micro-targeting of individual voters based on their psychographic profile and another another pointing to the success Dr. Ben Carson was having with narrow targeting of ads and emails using information from Facebook. I could argue that his “targeting” isn’t very accurate, since the good doctor continues to send me information even though my politics are slightly to the left of the Al Gore/Obama variety. But the point is that, so far, both Cruz and Carson’s efforts are working, and they continue to rake in both dollars and volunteers.

We learned in the last election cycle that just buying eyeballs doesn’t work. The Republicans and their funders like the Koch Brother spent a fortune (nearly $4 million per electoral vote), yet they lost big time. Obama spent a fraction of that, and relied on personal relationship building and social networks to win the election.

While it is clear that both political parties have learned a lesson from the last national election cycle, the public relations field clearly has not. From client after client, I hear the same thing: “What’s the best way to measure impressions in social and traditional media?”

At best they’re asking, “I’m not sure I trust these impressions numbers, what’s a better alternative?” And I tell them that there is no accurate alternative. While you can certainly get some very big “reach” numbers by combining data from Nielsen Ratings, ComScore, Compete, and any other tools you want to, they don’t tell you a damn thing about your business.

The better alternative, I point out, is to understand your customers needs and issues, identify the key media outlets that influence your stakeholders’ behavior and then do competitive analysis of your positioning in those outlets to measure share of desirable vs. undesirable voice. That’s targeting your measurement.

As for the ones that don’t listen, they’ll end up like Mitt Romney, spending a lot and getting very little. ∞

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