With measurement, don't be penny wise and pound foolish

Growing up in Manchester, England, my grandmother would observe about a nearby family that they were "penny wise and pound foolish."

Growing up in Manchester, England, my grandmother would observe about a nearby family that they were "penny wise and pound foolish." This usually was in response to their bragging of a forthcoming trip to the gaudy fleshpots of the Costa del Sol in Spain. These same neighbors had newspapers covering their kitchen windows because they were too cheap to buy blinds.

My grandmother is long gone so we will never know her observations about a number of modern subjects that would not have met her approval, such as the startling lack of analytics in reputation management.

Admittedly it's a long shot that she would have had strong opinions about best practices in corporate communications, but had it been explained to her, I'm sure her response would have been - "penny wise and pound foolish."

For as long as I have been in PR, measurement has been the Holy Grail. I would not dream of building a campaign without tackling head-on the success metrics for the intended outcomes. Yet, my experience is that when you apply the same thinking to the front end of a campaign, the planning and the strategy, there is often resistance, skepticism and, even, implied accusations of naivety. "We don't have those kind of budgets." "We don't have the time." "We know our own audiences." Really?

So if I told you about a once world- leading manufacturer that discovered through research that its beloved message of heritage and past glories merely reminded people of how far they had fallen, would that change your mind? Or the global services company that was planning to invest millions in a CSR program only for the data to demonstrate that corporate citizenship was not even among the top five drivers of its reputation?

We have analytical tools that tell us who holds most sway on our reputation; the ideas stakeholders consider important versus what you might think is important; what they will believe about you and what they will never believe; and where you sit against your competitors. Sure, there is a cost attached to this, but a bigger cost is attached to reputation planning based on the opinion of the last customer the CEO spoke to.

Of course, any investment in metrics at the planning stages are used to benchmark outcomes, making it easier to prove that the campaign really is moving the needle on something more than media clips. Thanks for the insight Gran. 

Mike Hatcliffe is MD of the US corporate practice at Ogilvy PR.

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