metrics humorA contributing writer to Ragan’s PR Daily, Briana Severson, just accused me (and all you other Measurement Mavens) of “lying” because we say we have the key to measuring PR,  Needless to say, I take exception to that.

I understand that measurement is a controversial topic and not all are doing it right.  But to suggest that no one has “the key to measuring PR” is a bit far fetched. Lets just start with the fact that I have 30 years of IRS records and satisfied clients to prove that I have, in fact, been delivering keys to measuring PR  for longer than Ms. Severson has been practicing it.

I don’t argue that there are many poseurs who claim to measure PR and deliver instead an endless stream of meaningless numbers.  However, I happen to know a great many people, many of whom are my peers and colleagues on the IPR Measurement Commission who have almost as many years of experience demonstrating success to their bosses and clients in very meaningful and useful ways – a great many of which tie results to either the bottom line or agreed upon objectives.

And while Ms. Severson makes a valid point that measurement is more than just numbers, anyone who thinks that communications measurement is solely about math and numbers doesn’t deserve to be in business.  Similarly, “insight” is necessary for any evaluation, and again, I know a great many clients and providers that deliver that to clients on a regular basis. Clearly Ms. Severson has been hanging out in the wrong circles.

I certainly concur with anyone who calls for clear definitions of success, but that’s essentially what the industry agreed upon nearly 6 years ago with the declaration of the Barcelona Principles. Four out of the seven principles specifically talk to the issue of goal measurement as opposed to activities and outputs. So needless to say, I checked out Ms. Severson’s agency website to see how they measure success.

Interestingly, they don’t seem to be heeding her advice, or coming close to following the Barcelona Principles.  They cite the following accomplishments which to me seem like perfect examples of exactly the bad measurement Ms. Serverson’s derides. For example:

  •  <client> was featured in nearly 2,000 articles and appeared in an estimated 90 percent of top-tier business and technology media in the U.S…
  • We also played a strategic role in <clients> TED Talk, which has more than one million views”
  • Develop and execute two annual reports: Social Recruiting Survey and Job Seeker Nation Survey
  • Over 400 stories since June 2013 in business, technology, recruiting and consumer publications
  • Standing weekly contributed column in Inc. for CEO Dan Finnigan
  • Contributed articles in Entrepreneur, WSJ Accelerators, ERE, Buzzfeed and others.
  • Established an ongoing “How To Get A Job At” series with Marie Claire which resulted in 8 stories featuring <clients>  customers.

So where is the insight, any connection to business goals, or analysis in any of this? Essentially it sounds like they are defining success as “checking off items on the ‘To Do’ list.” So, Briana before you go calling people like me “a liar” you might want to read the Barcelona Principles, have a conversation with some members of the IPR Measurement Commission, and learn about what really excellent companies are actually doing to provide accurate and meaningful measures of success to their clients and bosses.

(Thanks to Rob Cottingham for the image)

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  • Mark Weiner


    Welcome to the big leagues. There was so much good in your article but if you could have only qualified the opening.

    • Bill Paarlberg

      Indeed, Mark. Except for the inflammatory opening, was that article really objectionable? I think she confuses measurement with not thinking about the data.

      • Katie Paine

        My problem with the entire piece is that yes, she does encourage critical analysis, but it perpetuates the mistaken believe that you can’t measure PR and if you do it’s complicated and difficult.

  • Sean Williams

    Ignorance of the body of knowledge doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, people make judgments frequently without researching (or even Googling) simple facts. There’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to feed the trolls — but all that it takes for evil to triumph over good is for good people to do nothing. Good on ya, Katie!

  • Bill Paarlberg

    That article’s problem is with the first line. The rest of it actually encourages analysis and critical thinking, which we all would agree with. She seems to assume that “measurement” does not include analysis. Perhaps it’s time to stop calling it “measurement,” and start calling it something more accurately descriptive of the whole process.