We speak often of the different metrics that you can measure in public relations and marketing. In our obsession with what to measure, one question we don’t often ask is what we shouldn’t measure. The answer might surprise you: there are lots of things you shouldn’t measure, at least not with the same level of intensity and focus. Not all metrics are created equal.

First and foremost, we shouldn’t intensely measure things we have no control over. If you’re a public relations professional, measuring lead generation is out of your purview. Measuring sales is largely disconnected from public relations. What you do have control over is which publications and influencers you reach out to, whether or not they run your story, and the audience you generate or retain for your company or client.

I often cite as an example that you could run an amazing awareness campaign about a coffee shop that gets tremendous coverage, but if the coffee shop is closed, all that attention won’t generate sales. Failing to be open isn’t your fault as a PR practitioner, and your efforts generated the result that the business wanted: more attention, awareness, and action taken. It’s just that the rest of the business process fell apart.

Second and somewhat controversially, don’t bother measuring what you don’t intend to act on. Every metric is implicitly paired with an action or series of actions you can take. New followers on Twitter can be greeted and welcomed. New website visitors can be presented with great content. If you don’t plan on taking any of those actions, then why waste time, energy, and resources measuring things that you won’t change? Marketing writer Seth Godin put it very well: what’s the point of checking the scale if you have no plans to change your weight or health?

Third and finally, don’t measure things that don’t actually measure anything. This applies to measures and metrics that ultimately either have misleading meanings, such as ad value equivalence, or metrics that don’t have meaning, such as passive impressions. We’ve talked at length about both metrics and why they’re ultimately unimpactful; in both cases, there are almost certainly better, more meaningful metrics available.

Take a hard look at everything you’re measuring and see if you’ve got metrics that meet any of these three categories. If you do, immediately begin the search for better, more impactful metrics. Your marketing communications strategy will thank you.

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