“My boss isn’t asking for data or measurement results so why provide it?”

In Mark Cuban’s words, “the greatest value you can offer a boss is to reduce their stress.” Your boss wants you to think ahead of them, not the other way around. This is the case I make when PR execs tell me they don’t need to measure because their boss doesn’t ask for data-driven results.

Let’s think about it this way – imagine you’re the boss. Someone shows up in your office with a suggestion or even a full-blown solution to a problem that has been nagging you – but one that you had not assigned to anyone. Your immediate reaction is probably something like, “Wow, you mean we can solve this thing without me having to go through the pain of figuring out every last detail?”

Talk about relieving stress. You had absolutely NO expectations of receiving this wonderful gift. More importantly, you now know this person thought through this issue and can do the same with other problems without being prodded. In fact, you will probably leave them alone because you trust they have their arms around problems before you need to intervene. Incredibly powerful.

In my experience, a sure-fire way to succeed where there are no expectations is by using data and analytics in the corporate communications function. It seems hard to believe, but there are businesses that still don’t use data to drive their communications strategy. It’s not for the lack of data and analytics tools; many tools exist, and many public relations practitioners use them.

Yet PR professionals have all sorts of reasons why they don’t measure. The most common reason I hear is, “the boss isn’t asking for data or measurement results so why provide it?” Using data to back up a sound communications strategy is no different than the marketing department measuring the impact of a campaign or using a net promoter score. You do these things because they make sense, they drive strategy, and they improve execution.

If a public relations practitioner provides quality analysis on the effectiveness of a campaign or the overall department’s contribution to shareholder value, then the CEO naturally will have greater confidence in their ability to manage their department. Moreover, the CEO likely will trust them and let them keep moving forward – and will look forward to the next report. Build it, and they will come.

But what if the report has bad news? The only thing worse than bad news is you not knowing about it and having no plan to deal with it. Any quality PR analytics solution will provide insights to help you gauge the scope of the issue and develop an appropriate response. Scope and context are important because it is not uncommon for some people to blow things out of proportion, particularly when it comes to media. Any PR strategy must have measures to show that the problem has, in fact, been fixed. If you don’t measure it, how do you know if you have actually fixed the problem?

What if the CEO is the problem? Some public relations people who report to their CEO believe you can’t get data out of the news. I have met them. I have also seen a PR executive, armed with solid data, face down a bunch of engineers – and win. Data can help convince your CEO of the true nature of the issue when they think a negative story is a catastrophe, or worse, dismisses a substantive problem as “fake news.”

Despite all this, I still come across PR execs who demur. To them I say: Who do you think is the best communications team in your industry? Find them, and ask how they drive their strategy and tactics.

If they don’t say “with data,” I’ll buy you lunch.

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