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How to Measure Your Communications: An Interview With Katie Delahaye Paine

When it comes to nicknames, Katie Delahaye Paine’s takes the cake:

The Measurement Queen.

What started out as a haphazardly assembled costume of a tiara and measuring tape turned into a nickname that would define her as one of the preeminent voices in the world of public relations measurement.

Katie Delahaye Paine is a data consultant and analyst and is currently both Senior Measurement Consultant at Paine Publishing and the founder and member of the Institute of Public Relations Measurement Commission. She’s built a successful career around measuring communication and specializes in helping big companies define and measure the effectiveness of their marketing and PR efforts. She’s also written several books on the subject and has a reputation for being able to measure and show the value of some of the stickiest PR and social media tactics around.

Katie chatted with me about the core differences in marketing and PR measurement, and how to measure results that matter to the people who sign the checks.

Nels: What are some of the key differences to measuring marketing and measuring PR?

Katie: Let’s start with what they have in common.

Both disciplines are chronically misunderstood. Just as marketing isn’t selling, PR isn’t “press releases” or “media relations.” In the broadest sense, public relations is building relationships with key stakeholders to achieve success for your organization. And yes, it does frequently take the form of media outreach, but these days it’s just as likely to be content development, event management, lobbying or influencer relations.

In terms of measurement, marketing is typically seen as contributing to sales, whereas PR’s goal might be to increase talent recruitment, reduce the volatility of your stock price, build advocacy or any number of other things that can’t be quantified in terms of media coverage.

It used to be that PR was measured in much the same way marketing was — in terms of eyeballs. But the impression count as a key measurement tool these days is moving more and more toward integrating data from CRM, web analytics, plus using more survey research to measure impact.

N: What are some of the toughest things to measure, and how do you work around those challenges?

K: Working with global financial institutions is my most challenging, and therefore my favorite, project. Helping them put a value on their communications efforts means calculating increased trust or changing perceptions or attitudes about a global issue. That’s the fun stuff.

Essentially, it all comes down to getting consensus from senior leadership on what the communications goals are and what are the acceptable proxies for progress. For the international financial organizations, generally it’s about building trust or changing perceptions or educating the public. You measure those via survey — either developing a trust index based on the Grunig Trust instrument, these standard guidelines for measuring trust, or basic awareness and perception studies.

N: Major social media platforms have monetized their users and built robust analytics reports. But it wasn’t like that 10 years ago. How did you measure social media during its infancy and how does that compare to how you measure it now?

K: In the early days of social media measurement, we paid a lot of attention to followers and engagement, and analyzed the content very similarly to how we measured media. We’re still analyzing content, but the metrics are more about the impact on goal conversions and impact on perceptions.

Goal conversions are automatic calculations created in Google Analytics, Web Trends or Adobe that reflect desired behavior on the part of web visitors. So when you go from a social platform to a specific page, that action is registered as a social conversion in the analytics platform. I NEVER trust or use metrics that come from the platforms themselves.

N: As a successful (and presumably busy) consultant and educator, how do you prioritize your own content creation?

K: It’s very much the story of the shoemaker’s children. My own content only gets done when it has to. For instance, when we HAVE to get our monthly subscription newsletter into people’s hands, or if there is a conference that requires the content, that’s when it becomes a priority.

N: What are your go-to measurement tools?

K: It’s pretty simple. I download reports from Google Analytics into Excel and then run correlations with PR data or other available data with Excel PivotTables.

N: What are the biggest misconceptions about marketing and PR measurement?

K: Too many people put too much focus on things other than measurable business impact. You can make all the impressions you want (just ask Harvey Weinstein, or Wells Fargo or Samsung), but if you aren’t making money, no one cares.

The key is goal conversions and search and/or survey results. All three of those are indicators of preference and consideration and most senior leaders will accept them as a huge improvement over traditional measurement methods.

N: What are the most common issues you help your clients deal with?

K: Tying their PR and communications activity to business results. The problem is that people don’t go into PR because they love accounting or math or Excel. They love words. But the reality is that CFOs and people who allocate budgets don’t give a rat’s ass for words — they want to see results. If you can’t make a connection between what you do and a business impact, no one cares.

That doesn’t mean you have to tie a press release to market share. It means getting agreement from senior leadership on what your contribution is, and what might be an acceptable proxy for movement along the path to purchase.

N: Forecast time: What do you see as some of the biggest measurement trends for 2018?

K: I think you’ll see more use of share of voice and share of specific issue measurement. Also, you’ll see much more integration of SEO and Web Analytics data into traditional PR and social media measurement dashboards. That’s what the clients are already doing, and the smart vendors will make it easier for them. Systems like Proof and visualization tools like Tableau will become much more prevalent. The ability to track and measure logos and other visuals should also become much more common.

N: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

K: “Learn how to write well and you’ll always have a job.” Mrs. Vickery, my eighth-grade teacher. She taught us well. My other favorite from an entrepreneurial perspective: “You’re never wrong, you’re just early.”

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