For a long time, I didn’t understand PR metrics. I’d listen to media relations folks talk about AVEs and put out reports touting impressions. And I couldn’t understand how all these numbers were relevant to achieving much of anything. Then I realized they weren’t.

There’s a difference between counting and measuring.

There was a terrific discussion in the #SoloPR chat recently about measurement and one of the questions addressed whether there is a difference between “measuring in social media vs. other PR programs.” (No. Or more precisely, as Kellye Crane put it, “there is a difference in outputs. But both should focus on outcomes.)

My initial response: I don’t do PR, but isn’t it all about measuring and tracking based on identified business goals?

There’s a place for counting.

I don’t want to suggest that there is no room for counting. Starter social media metrics, for example, might look to track the growth of a Facebook community or the number of video subscribers to your new YouTube channel. They’re useful benchmarks, but they don’t in and of themselves do anything for your business. Similarly, a media mention in the New York Times is a great way to get free publicity for a new product or initiative. But all the reach in the world is just that–reach. It’s not the same as results.

There’s a place for measuring.

Measuring is about business results. Are you reaching the right person and are they doing what you want them to do? It could be a sale. It could be a vote (e.g., if you’re trying to convince a lawmaker to support your priority initiative). It could be a change in behavior (e.g., a hand-washing campaign). It could be a lot of things, but they have to be things that move the needle.

Photo by Andy Maguire (Flickr).