Metrics Still Operate in a Vacuum

Kami Huyse
Kami Huyse

It is easier than ever to collect data about how your online communication is working. It seems that most organizations are sticking with the easy stuff, however. About 61 percent measure website hits, visits and page views, and 45 percent track numbers of followers or friends, according to a recent study by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association. What do these metrics tell us, really? Only 31 percent track conversion rates. What happens after someone likes your brand or shows up on your webpage? Even if they “engage” with your brand on social media, where does that lead?

Communication metrics are meaningless without context. They are especially meaningless without a clear understanding of the objectives you are trying to accomplish.

Do you want to obtain leads, increase sales, drive advocacy, raise awareness? What is the conversion you are hoping to gain through your communication?


For years advocacy organizations and causes have used a methodology called the ladder of engagement to move people from casual to committed supporters. The same idea can be used across many industries to foster customer loyalty.

Building a ladder of engagement for your brand requires connecting the dots between smaller actions to desired outcomes. For instance, how does someone hitting the Like button equate to a person who takes a slightly deeper commitment, such as commenting on a post? What percent of those commenters would click a link to sign up for an email?

Finding answers to these questions should be a priority for any company or organization. It is very difficult to predict what a single person will do in any given interaction, but as a group people are more predictable.

Understanding how groups of people move from the initial encounter to deeper engagement and finally to the desired action is valuable information.

The answer to finding this pattern is to measure actions though the ladder of engagement.

RECIPE FOR PR MEASUREMENT? Above is an example of how to set up and measure a ladder of engagement for your communications and PR efforts. You can measure with absolute numbers, as in the first example, or use a percentage growth per normal levels, as in the second example.


As a communication professional, we tend to measure mostly the bottom part of the ladder, maybe thinking it is too hard to measure all the way to the top.

While it is true that causality of a particular sale or action isn’t always clear, there is plenty of research showing that the role of communications is critical to the process.

One of the ways you can get a sense for this is by looking at communications over a period of time and tracking the numbers at each stage.

When you launch a campaign you might look at potential reach of a particular article, or social media post.

By itself, this measure is meaningless, but taken with the number of engagements such as Shares, you might start to see a correlation between the reach needed to obtain a certain level of engagement.

You can also look at website traffic for that time period, or even a few weeks after, as many of these effects might linger over a larger time frame, to see if your overall traffic was higher than usual over that time period.

All of this assumes that you have effective content and a landing page or similar to capture interest once someone arrives at the website. From there you can set up funnels through Web analytics to see how people behave once they arrive at your site and what actions they take.

As you repeat and refine your campaigns, you might find that you have to add a step to your ladder of engagement. Over time, you will learn exactly what kind of effort you need to make to reach the results you expect.

A bonus of knowing this is that it becomes much easier to set realistic objectives that don’t feel arbitrary. Plus, if your campaign isn’t performing as expected, the cause becomes easier to diagnose. Is the content not resonating, thus fewer shares? Do you lose people at the site? Perhaps they are confused?

You can also connect these results more readily with the Holy Grail of finding a Return on Investment (ROI). If you know how many actions you are helping to drive, you can multiply them by the expected monetary value to gain an idea of what kind of impact your communication had overall.

Don’t you think that would be worth the extra effort?


Kami Huyse is founder and CEO of Zoetica Media, a public relations and social media strategy agency. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter, @kamichat

This article originally appeared in the February 23, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.