How To Cultivate Client Satisfaction with PR MetricsPR metrics are sort of like suds-free shampoo.

The first time I ever used sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) free shampoo was an experience completely void of satisfaction.

I poured the entire bottle on my head, desperately trying to get it to suds up. 

Did this new shampoo even clean my hair?

How would I know?

I didn’t have the traditional cue of overflowing suds to signal to me my hair was clean. 

It was so anti-climatic. My instant, scientific, emotional response was “this shampoo is bunk.”

I craved my suds.

Measuring real PR metrics—those that show real business results (vs. vanity metrics such as impressions and social media fans)—often feels the same way.

Where Are the Suds?

There are many reasons both clients and PR pros cling to vanity metrics, such as social media likes, impressions, and AVEs.

And this remains true, even when they logically accept they aren’t direct indicators of progress towards business goals and/or growth.

Reasons include:

  • Quicker moving: It’s a lot quicker and easier to add five Facebook likes than it is to add five new customers.
  • Egocentric: My page is bigger than your page.
  • Stimulate endorphins: They like me, they really like me.
  • Habit: We subconsciously connect these vanity metrics with “success.” And so even though we clearly see they don’t directly translate into business results, our habit is to feel good when we see their growth.

Much like shampoo that suds, vanity metrics give us a more instantaneous good feeling of progress.

We crave them.

We’ve been trained habitually to see them as cues which indicate, “hey this is working.”

And that’s not necessarily wrong.

Part of a successful PR plan is on-going monitoring and analysis to determine what works and what doesn’t.  

Vanity metrics are an important piece of the puzzle. But they are just a piece.

Just like the suds aren’t actually what clean my hair, vanity metrics don’t actually grow a business.

Real PR Metrics Grow Businesses

The truth is, even without the suds my hair gets clean.

And more suds doesn’t equal cleaner or better hair.

In fact, the entire reason I stopped using shampoo with SLS was because I suspected it caused my hair to dry out and looked dull.

My hairstylist recommended I remove SLS from all hair products.

A few weeks later, I didn’t even have to use conditioner anymore, my hair absolutely glowed.

Likewise, quick growth of your Facebook page, or more impressions on your Instagram post, do not translate to more sales.

They could be indicators your strategy is working, or they could not.

They might just be false, sudsy stimuli.

What does indicate strategy success is progress on the PR metrics we discuss consistently on this blog.

Things such as leads driven, leads converted, new customers, and revenue.

Metrics that are directly related to organizational growth.

Creating New Routines

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg breaks down the habit loop and why it causes us to do, want, and crave the things we do.

One very important aspect of the loop is cues.

These cues provide some sort of satisfaction, which keep us craving the reward and pushes the habit loop forward.

For example, this is why we want to respond to emails and text instantaneously, it’s why most toothpaste has a minty flavor, and it’s why SLS is added to things such as shampoo, toothpaste, and soap.

They provide cues that we can become addicted to.

We start to associate them with the desired result, even if they don’t have any correlation.

(Shock and awe: Even if it doesn’t taste minty, toothpaste is cleaning your teeth. I know, it came as a shock to me as well.)

Vanity metrics are a very powerful.

And even though business growth and revenue are theoretically more powerful desires, and logically much more important goals, logic doesn’t necessarily power the workings of the brain.

This is why it’s our responsibility to not just introduce and track business-focused PR metrics in our client’s campaigns, we must also help them (and often our own team) break the habit cycle of vanity metrics.

Change the Routine

How do we do that?

We change the routine.

Duhigg’s research shows you can change any routine if you keep the same cues and same rewards.

So in this case:

  • The routine is relying on vanity metrics to determine success
  • The cue is a consistent tracking of success metrics.
  • The reward is the feeling of victory when your efforts provide positive results.

So we replace the craving of vanity metrics.

Drive Customer Satisfaction with PR Metrics

To change how your clients and your team look at measurement, you must commit to four rules:

  • Consistency: Depending on the client, we send metric tracking dashboards and analysis either every week or every month. For those we send monthly, we still discuss our PR metrics and goals weekly on our calls. This means are clients are constantly aware of progress and where we are against our goals. You must consistently provide the data you want them to crave. Something won’t be a habit if it’s not consistent.
  • Engagement: We tend to have the best results with clients who are engaged in some part of the tracking process. When a client needs to provide data from their end to complete the dashboard it engages their brain in a way that makes them feel more of a part of the process — and success. We normally have a few metrics which a client needs to provide us (such as revenue and conversion rate). They send to us a few days before every dashboard report. Looking up and reporting the numbers provides them with that same endorphin rush of seeing social media numbers go up.
  • Education:  We often find, even if clients during prospecting are most excited about our business-focused PR metrics and tracking, when it gets into the weeds of the work they often still crave those vanity metrics. Your work is not done after the business is signed. It is your job to consistently keep the client informed and involved in not just the tracking, but the analysis process. Don’t just give them numbers, explain the why, what, how, and what this means for ongoing strategy and current progress.
  • Context: Vanity metrics have their place. The problem is when they are seen as a success in and of themselves vs. possible indicators of progress. It is helpful to track these things and report them to the client, but only when explained in context. Don’t discount them altogether. Educate the client about their role, but consistently reinforce the “cue” as the business-focused PR metrics being tracked.

Do you have a client obsessed with vanity metrics? How do you help them understand the more powerful role PR can plan in their business?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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