The Measurement Standard

November 21, 2010

5 More PR-Related Things We Need to Get Rid Of


by Katie Delahaye Paine

Last month's article “Five PR-related Things We Need to Get Rid Of” sparked many excellent comments, both here and when it was reprinted in So we thought we’d follow up on the feedback. Plus I’ve got five more things to get rid of.

First, it was amazing to learn how many people are still convinced of the efficacy of some old fashioned techniques...

Still In Love with the Press Release?

I was stunned to find how many people are still in love with the press release...

I am too—but not as a tool to talk to the press. For that it is totally worthless. But it’s great as a way of getting everyone on the same page as to your message or the goal or the intent of an action. My company, KDPaine & Partners, recently nailed down a partnership agreement by writing the press release with which to announce the deal. When we are working with clients to create a survey, I frequently start with a fantasy press release announcing the results. And sure, you do need to post releases on your website so the world will know what you’re up to recently. Maybe we just need to change the name? 

Here are five more PR-related things we need to get rid of.

1. Data that doesn’t look at all the variables

For years I’ve presented at eMetrics, a fabulous conference about measurement in the digital space. When I first started speaking at these conferences, many of the presenters would get up and claim huge results for electronic tweaks to a web page or a banner ad. However, when I asked whether they’d taken into account the very successful PR campaigns that ran simultaneously, presenters would invariable respond in the negative. “Why not?” I’d ask. “Because we didn’t think of it,” they’d respond. 

Their data was therefore completely flawed. 

The same is true for most claims for sales growth that are exclusively attributed to advertising, direct mail, or anything else. In reality, most campaigns are multi-faceted and incorporate numerous outreach methods. Only with effective multi-variate testing or marketing mix modeling methods can we truly accurately determine the impact of any one tactic.

2. Direct mail (yes, really)

Sorry David and all the rest of you who still believe in this dinosaur. It doesn’t work, unless of course the Direct Marketing Association is putting out the statistics. The big picture is that U.S. junk mail accounts for 30% of all the mail delivered in the world, and the response rate is less than 2%. In fact a response rate of less than .25% is now considered acceptable. Ten years ago, an acceptable return for one non-profit we work with was $2 in return for every $1 spent on direct mail. It’s now around $.25. This does not scream effective to me.

Yes, OK, I accept that direct mail people do bring “empiricism to marketing,” but their cost calculations are shortsighted. The sheer volume of direct mail paper is so huge that its cost effectiveness shouldn’t be based on just direct costs, but must incorporate the environmental costs of producing, delivering and disposing of all that paper.

Consider these junk mail facts from

  • U.S. junk mail costs $550 million a year to transport and another $370 million to dispose of.
  • The volume of trees required to produce a year’s junk mail is the equivalent of clearcutting all of the Rocky Mountain National Park every 4 months.
  • 28 billion gallons of water are consumed each year in the creation of junk mail.
  • 51.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases are created each year by junk mail, the equivalent of that produced by 9.4 million vehicles.
  • Approximately 44% of all junk mail goes directly to land fills unopened. (At least 100% of mine goes directly to recycling.)

The real cost of junk mail is one we can no longer afford.

3. Assuming that computers can do measurement

If one more company comes along and promises a cheap and easy solution to measurement I will scream. See our Measurement Menace of the Month Award for this month. What the world does not need is yet another automated content analysis tool that calls it self “measurement” or “reputation manager” and promises the dream of measurement. It will inevitably disappoint its purchasers.

The reality is that most of the firms out there hawking “measurement” tools are really touting monitoring tools that help you track the presence or absence of your brand in social media. It takes humans to separate the relevant from the irrelevant and to actually derive value from the data.

For example, in the last week we’ve seen one of the better known monitoring systems confuse an online version of a major national business paper with the paper version. Which wouldn’t matter except that the impression counts for the two vary by a factor of ten.

Never mind the countless examples of computers confusing SAS the analytic software company with SAS the Society for Amateur Scientists. And do you really want to include all the obits and wedding announcements for your employees in the results you are reporting? The reality is that if you want clean data, you need humans to check it. And, more important, if you want to understand what the data means, you need a human to put it into context and explain its implications.

4. Corporate silos that prevent good measurement

In the last few months I’ve had great conversations with many people who have the best intentions of developing great measurement systems, but all have been stymied because “it’s too hard to get the data.” It is time to realize that if there weren’t a million barriers to sharing data within most companies, everyone would have much better metrics. So please, break out of your silos.

You can connect the dots between your social media or PR efforts and a shorter sales cycle, lower recruitment costs, or more efficient lead generation. All it takes a bit of statistical analysis and a willingness to share the data. So get out there, cross those aisles, tear down those silos and talk to your fellow employees. They are just as interested as you are in being accountable. They may work in different departments and may use slightly different words to describe what data they are sitting on, but ultimately they care just as passionately as you do about measurement.

5. Antiquated terms like “reporters,” “publications,” and “articles”

There’s a great big conversation going on out there. Some of it is happening in the pages of the Wall Street Journal and on The Today Show. But an equal if not greater amount takes place on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And you can’t call any of them a publication. So stop trying to fit new realities into old categories.  

Here at KDPaine & Partners we are in the thick of this every day. Over the last decade, we’ve had to redefine about 90% of the terminology we’ve been using to make it fit into the new media environment. 

We now refer to references to a company in traditional media as “items.” As in “Last month there appeared 1000 items that mentioned your brand.”  We no longer refer to an author of a blog post as a “reporter,” because chances are he or she isn’t one. It is far more likely that the person writing is a mom, a fan, or a lobbyist. So we call them all “author.” As in “The most frequent author of items about your brand was John Smith.”


Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine is a dynamic and experienced speaker on public relations and social media measurement. Click here for the schedule of Katie’s upcoming speaking engagements.



November 22, 2010

I wonder who you voted for in the last election… I try and keep my politics out of my consulting practice. If something like direct mail is profitable for a client, we will keep doing it. It just becomes a matter of priories.

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