Success Metrics Should Propagate Success

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My boyfriend was recently asked to help review a new Masters program plan for a local university. Part of this plan included success metrics like the following:

–       Number of students enrolled in the program

–       Feedback on courses and professors from students (through annual surveys)

–       Number of students who find employment (upon graduation or within six months)

–       Number of students who receive a promotion or other recognition (upon graduation or within one year)

While the first two are valuable metrics for other purposes (budgeting, curriculum building, etc.), I would not necessarily consider these to be success metrics.

The goal of the Masters program is to educate students to help them further their career or gain employment. Measuring how many students go through the program does not tell me whether or not the program was actually beneficial to them. Similarly, telling me how much students liked their course and professors does not tell me whether they landed that job they wanted.

Students who were employed or promoted upon or recently after graduation, however, tells me exactly what I need to know. It tells me how well your students were prepared to find employment or be successful in their career. And that is really success in this case.

If I were looking to apply to a Masters program, I wouldn’t care which one had the most students; I would care which had the most successful students. In this way, these success metrics (when used correctly) could not only show value, but could be used to propagate success by encouraging more (and likely better) students to apply.

Let’s bring this around to communications. Think about success metrics you have used. Which ones show success and which ones just count?

Metrics like reach and impressions, while valuable in their own right, are similar to measuring how many students are in a Masters program. If one million folks had the opportunity to see your new 30-second commercial, what does this really tell you? Sure one million is likely better than 1,000, but so what? If I’m a potential customer, I’d rather hear that 95% of your customers benefited from buying your product. I could care less how many other people saw your ad.

When brainstorming success metrics, always be sure that measures you choose show success (based on your goals), and think about what might persuade more people to buy your product or use your service. Success (metrics) propagates success.

How do you measure success? Do you use these measures in future advertising or PR?

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  • Jholding

    Your boyfriend was hired by the university, so you have to measure success by more metrics than just the success of the students.
    You also have to measure success by the standards of the institution.
    The number of students enrolled is going to tell the institution whether or not it’s viable to give the course again.
    If the course doesn’t pay for itself, the institution won’t present it again. Period.
    Likewise, the effectiveness of the professors is an important success metric in their reviews.

    • Rebecca Denison

      I know I truncated this for the sake of the example. The number of students is still important (which I mentioned), but for the goal I focused on in this example “to educate students to help them further their career or gain employment,” the number of students is less important. When focusing on how well students are helped, the total number doesn’t matter as much as how successful the students themselves were. Maybe I’m focusing too much on semantics? I’m sorry if this isn’t making sense.

      The effectiveness of professors is incredibly important to student’s success. I don’t think that asking students about their professors measures a professor’s success. I always gave professors I liked good reviews, but I’ve found that sometimes the professors I didn’t necessarily like were the ones who I’ve referred to and really learned from in the long run. I’d rather see success rates for different professor’s students (if possible) than asking the students themselves. Again, maybe I’m focusing too much on details/semantics here.