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Results measurement, part one: the Thud Factor

November 16, 2011

Dave Anderson

Achieving results. Of course it’s the driver of any business. And with the significant investment allocated to the practice, achieving success in a public relations program can be just as crucial as achieving success in sales, recruitment, accounting or any other business role. Unfortunately, measuring success can be one of the most difficult parts of a marketer’s job. Over the next few posts, I’ll outline five methods I’ve used in the past (often simultaneously) to measure the success of a communications program. While some are exclusive to the public relations field, all five should serve to provide insights into the function of results measurement.

In today’s installment, I’ll tackle the least sophisticated but most demonstrative method: the Thud Factor.

I was taught the Thud Factor when I first kicked off my PR career at a boutique agency in Connecticut. Back then, most of the coverage my team was bringing in arrived in the form of national print placements from industry publications and daily newspapers. During our ongoing coverage searches, we would compile the placements in a voluminous results binder. For some clients, we did this quarterly, but for others, it was an annual project.

Next, we would meet with each client to discuss strategy for the upcoming period. That’s where we’d deliver our quarterly/annual results by dropping it with a jarring, unceremonious “thud” on their conference room table. They’d know how well we did based on the size of the thud and how far away the sound reached. We’d pat ourselves on the back at the extent of the coverage and describe how easily we were able to amass the great hits in a relatively short time period. The clients always walked away impressed by our showmanship and now had something tangible with which they could share with their board of directors. It also made a great coffee table book for the lobby of their corporate office. Of course, the timing of this facade always seemed to occur right before the clients’ invoices were mailed out!

Obviously this method has its drawbacks. For one, size doesn’t matter (at least that’s what we’ve been told.) Sure, that binder looks impressive, but dozens of placements seen by the wrong audience will get you nowhere in this business. Same goes for company mentions that are riddled with misquotes, off-message sound bites, or those where your company name is buried under a half-dozen competitors.

If your agency is relying on the Thud Factor to demonstrate their success, make sure there’s some strategy and intelligence behind all that flash. A single bylined article by your corporate “thought leader,” clearly communicating your organization’s main message to the right publication/audience is gold – and certainly worth more than pages and pages of near misses.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the most requested measurement method: Return on Investment.

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