PR agencies love to measure things, especially “results.” Here is an example of the typical way in which a PR agency reports results to a clients:
“Results: 50+ media briefings, 130 pieces of coverage, 3 cover stories.”
The PR agency will then roll out a clip book. This is all nice, of course, but meaningless.
Media clips – no matter how many generated – are a useless indication of the success of a PR program (and even less than useless is the number of media meetings that a client attended). But if you review typical PR agency status reports – it’s all about clips, meetings, and the big hit (usually in one of the premier business publications – hello, Fortune!).
Greg Jarboe, former director of corporate communications for Lotus, tells the story of strolling into the office of CEO Jim Manzi’s way back in 1986. Jarboe casually dropped a phone book sized clip book crammed with more than 700 media hits on Manzi’s desk. Manzi glanced at the book and said: “”Jarboe, if I could deposit these in a bank, I’d know what they were worth. But, until you can measure the impact of PR in cold, hard cash, don’t waste my time with these so-called reports.”
But Manzi, of course, was right . Yet even 23 years later, PR agencies continue to measure results in terms of clips. Many have developed fancy algorithms that measure a clip’s impact and rank it through some convoluted system of high math. It’s nonsense. Clips are just a metric. They don’t mean anything substantive. If you generate one clip and it leads to the largest sale in company history then that’s better than 1,000 clips that lead to zero sales.
But the problem is many PR professionals measure their success with metrics like these:
- Number of hits to a Web site.
- Blog mentions.
- Number of followers, fans or friends
- Press release pick-ups
- Briefings attended
- And, of course, number of media clips
These kinds of numbers exist in a vacuum and are at their essence diagnostic tools – possible indicators of success. Real results should spell out how PR helps drive business objectives. For example, when I co-lead the global media relations for One Laptop Per Child‘s “Give One, Get One” campaign in 2008 – we literally generated hundreds of clips from “60 Minutes” and the New York Times to People and “Good Morning America.” But only two numbers mattered: 127,000 (the number of laptops sold) and $28 million (the amount of money raised for OLPC).
Now those are results.
Last summer, I headed up PR for MoneyAisle, a web company that runs live reverse auctions to find the best rates for certificates of deposits and high-yield savings accounts. We launched the company with a media tour that generated more than a dozen media interviews and 10 feature stories in publications such as the Boston Globe, Computerworld, Network World, Mashable and a TV spot on New England Cable News. But the goal of the campaign was to generate a fast impactful start for the MoneyAisle. The real result? More than $1 million in sales the first week.
Metrics need to be connected to real business objectives. If you measure something – make sure it isn’t clips. Make sure its tangible results.