One of the most challenging things to do in communications is to nail the real goals for every single program. Sure, you can sell a certain number of widgets, or reach some minimum threshold of eyeballs on a story, but if we’re being honest, every single effort requires more thought than we’re probably putting in to the selection of key performance indicators.
Whether you’re redesigning a website, pitching a product launch to media, or completely overhauling a brand, there are KPIs to assign. Some are easy to figure out: improve customer satisfaction, increase web searches, or make the office phone ring. Others aren’t so simple, or may even be counter-intuitive or against the grain. For instance, this week, Reuters opted to measure success of its new app via total time spent versus pageviews, a traditional media-centric metric. It’s not that they didn’t already track or have access to total time spent, something anyone with basic familiarity with Google Analytics could explain, it’s that they thought it notable enough to raise this KPI to the top of the pile, something more akin to a video publisher or game shop. Reuters recognized that the "business problem" they were looking to solve was that of seemingly endless content being thrown at its audiences and that deep engagement was more valuable than wide.
After reading that, I immediately thought of a conversation that a friend and former colleague, Ben Wagner, then of MTV News, now news partnerships manager at Facebook, shared with me about a conversation he had with Mister Rogers. Yes, that Mister Rogers, who happened to have a summer home near that of Ben’s mother, meaning the two would meet on occasion. Mister Rogers told Ben that "deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex."
Maybe it’s the context of Mister Rogers saying that that makes it so blatantly "aha!" or perhaps it’s that a "back to basics" approach to work is timely in our cluttered world. But this seems like an extremely strong bit of wisdom that we could apply to generating success metrics as communicators.
This isn’t about change for change’s sake, either. It’s about understanding the challenges in front of us, and developing solutions for measurement, even if it’s about dusting off the old ones and figuring out how they can be relevant.
In February, I wrote about the impending closure of one of Seattle’s advertising mainstays, Wexley School for Girls. In July, PB&, an agency formed in 2016, took Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year award for the Pacific Northwest after being in business for a year. In Marketing’s coverage of PB&’s honor, there was a note from the publisher stating, "Just one more solid indication that the agency model is, indeed, changing." That was the case for the former, and the latter, here. That’s no mistake.
Clients don’t just expect beautiful copy in press releases, glowing words on the front of a newspaper, or stellar b-roll from a trade-show booth. While we’re continuing to up the ante on any or all of those, we should be cognizant of what our real mission is as marketing professionals: hitting the mark at an organizational level.
Taking stock of how we’re measuring our work is a great way to ensure that we don’t get lapped by those coming to the table with a different approach.