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I’ve just read a really interesting blog post by Katie Paine from Paine Publishing at PR Daily which made a number of points really clearly and are well worth sharing. It’s on the ongoing theme of metrics and reporting – an area Im constantly challenged by.

It starts off by asking “Why do rational, intelligent PR people insist their clients or board want a single number that will magically sum up a quarter of work?

  • When at the doctor, do they think their blood pressure sums up their health?
  • When they buy a car, is mpg the only variable that decides which car they buy?
  • When they decide whether to date someone, do they only consider the person’s age?”

Why didn’t I ever think of it like that!?!  It goes onto say that we PROs are obsessed with one number (whatever it may be, but even worse when it’s AVE). Our CFO at Zurich doesn’t present one number to describe the company’s health, he discussed a whole range of things including (and not exclusively) profits and loss, GWP, Loss Ratios, customer satisfaction levels, forecasts, actuarial trends etc.

The article provides some general guidelines based on the role numbers play for the board. “The numbers should help the board (or client) understand what has happened and make good decisions.”

The post goes on:

“Here are my guidelines for numbers you should present:

1. One and two are too few. Three is about right. More than five is probably too many.

2. Boards want outcomes rather than outputs or outtakes—numbers that relate to business goals.

3. Boards want to understand numbers in context. Identify a trend, or compare your organization to the competition or a benchmark.

4. Use numbers to tell a story: obstacles you overcame, heroic deeds, that sort of thing. Use numbers to give them an “Ah-ha!” moment.

5. Boards use numbers to make decisions, so give them what they need (even if you’re helping them decide you’re doing your job). If you know what they’ll decide—budget, new programmes, staff—give them what they need to do so.

Well that gives me plenty to think about! New year, new metrics, new reporting?