Vanity or Valid: Are you measuring what matters?

It comes as no surprise that communications directors told us they are constantly being challenged to demonstrate the value of communications. 

While the industry continues its search for the Holy Grail and solves the measurement dilemma, the increasing amount and availability of data and related tools that digitization has brought, is adding additional pressure.

Many companies simply measure the wrong things, because they’ve either inherited an outdated set of metrics and KPIs, are not sufficiently connected to their sales and marketing peers, lack the required knowledge and resources, or have simply been  seduced by ‘success theatre’ - celebrating results that have a wow factor, but have minimal impact.

When helping our clients evaluate their PR efforts, our starting point is always to identify what matters and then measure it.   The first two questions we ask are; why do you measure? And, what do you measure?

Measuring the right things for the right reasons is crucial. The only way to demonstrate the added value of communications is to bring back insights into the organisation – be they good or bad.

Valid or Vanity Metrics

What are valid metrics to use and what are the vanity metrics to avoid? Simply put, valid metrics are ones that provide insights against your business objectives, all others are vanity metrics.

Brand communicators are sometimes so eager to prove their value they cling onto anything that can be easily counted to make them look good; the number of clippings, (potential) impressions and advertising value equivalent or AVE (although this approach is now deemed to be outdated by the wider PR profession). 

Sometimes, these easy figures are what you need, but for getting the attention within your organization and taking our profession to the next level, it is not enough. 

Looking at your business objectives, what do you want to accomplish and what are the best indicators of it?  Are you reaching your target audiences and how are they responding to your message?  Look at the quality of your media coverage and website traffic, not just the quantity.  Look for ways to show impact on lead generation and sales.

Lacking Quality Data

Data quality is still a big issue in the PR and communications industry.

Many available tools are still problematic and sell data that is easy to collect, but does not necessarily offer information and insight that is useful, actionable or even interesting.

While digital tools with all the bells and whistles can construct flashy, real-time dashboards - we are all too easily seduced by the front-end, the graphics and pie charts, but often neglect the importance of being extra critical of the data they are based on, interpreting it in the right context and then having the patience to invest in qualitative analysis by industry experts for true insights.

Say, for example, your company has a large share of voice (when measured in mentions). Can you honestly say that you know where those mentions came from and what they were about? Does the media coverage really matter? Does it reflect your industry’s events and trends?  Are your reaching your key target audiences?

Running communications campaigns without any metrics or analytics is no longer acceptable. Factoring in and assigning budget to some form of measurement and analytics – even basic, yet relevant – is better than having none at all.  

Moving forward, the future of PR measurement lies in the combination of big data, digital tools and investing in human capital to interpret the data to provide true insights that can help organizations to learn and evolve, add value, and ultimately generate leads and convert them into sales.

Often, striking the right balance still remains the biggest challenge even for the most sophisticated communications team and sometimes is just an afterthought.


More on these subjects

Media Monitoring Communications Strategy


Share on


by Topic

Communications Strategy
Content Marketing
Crisis Communications
Digital Marketing
EMG Community
Industry Trends
Lead Generation
Marketing Communications
Media Monitoring
Media Relations
Social Media



by Date