I was in a meeting a few weeks ago when a junior member of the client’s marketing team was asked to tell us the company’s goals, as they relate to the things we’re trying to accomplish.

Her response?

“I have to look at my notes. I’m not good with numbers.”

When I spoke at an event a couple of weeks ago, I asked the audience of PR pros to raise their hands if they’re not good with numbers. All but two did so.

This is something I hear a lot: “I went into PR/communications because I don’t like numbers.”

Can PR Do Numbers?

And it’s no wonder. We’ve always gotten away with “measuring” our results in terms of media impressions, reach, and advertising equivalencies. After all, it’s hard to quantify brand awareness and credibility and reputation and thought leadership. You know whether or not you have it, but you can’t really put it in terms of numbers.

And those great big impression numbers? They feel good to a CEO who is looking for some way to show a return on your efforts.

But when the web disrupted our industry we slowly began to see new and interesting ways to measure our efforts. Early on we looked at using unique URLs in our news releases and different 800 numbers at our events, but that wasn’t enough.

The web has provided us a huge opportunity to mesure our results directly to business goals, yet most of us still shy away.

But the Industry Hates Numbers

Why? Because we don’t like numbers.

Think about it differently. Call it data or information or goodies or, heck, call it chocolate. Just don’t call it numbers.

It’s fun to see results from your efforts…and now you have the opportunity to see them every day.

Start Small

Start small. One of the things Geoff Livingston and I discuss in Marketing in the Round is using a benchmark of zero as your first step. Find something – one campaign, one event, one project – and create the benchmarks, the dashboard, and the data points you’ll measure. Think beyond traffic and pageviews and bounce rate. Really think about what the goals are of the business and how you can affect change in those areas.

For instance, in a for-profit business, you’ll want to look for ways to increase revenues, shorten the sales cycle, or improve margins. If you don’t know what all three of those things mean, go make friends with someone in the accounting department and learn it. Quickly.

An Example

Let’s use Pinterest as an example. It’s really easy to set up some boards and direct people back to your website or blog that way. Arment Dietrich has a client – Frank and Eileen – that makes high-end men’s and women’s shirts. The team created a Pinterest board for them, just to test and see what kinds of results could be achieved by pinning images of some of their shirts.

After only one month, Pinterest is the number eight referral source of traffic to the Frank and Eileen site. But remember we said to worry less about traffic and more on business results. So dig further. Pinterest sent three percent new visitors in April. Of that three percent, 83 percent bought a shirt. That represents $2,670 in new revenue for the business.

Other than the 83 percent who bought the shirt, all of the data for that particular test came from Google analytics (which are free!). The client also provides access to the ecommerce site, which provides the information needed to find out how many of the visitors from Pinterest bought a shirt.

This is a very simple way to look at measurement, but it gives you a starting point. Once you get this down, you can begin to advance and become more sophisticated in your measurement.

Companies that fully understand how they are being talked about and what levers work online can use this data to inform future marketing decisions.  As well, strategic intelligence gleaned from measurement can help uncover new opportunities for products and services.

Your clients or executive team will be ecstatic to finally have a real ROI on your efforts.

A version of this first appeared on PR Daily.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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