Why talk unicorns and rainbows?

weather-vane of unicornMy near 10 years in the public relations industry has taught me a lot. Despite these constant new lessons, there is one exercise that needs a refresher every now and then – overcoming skepticism. People in corporate hierarchies are used to dealing in dollars and cents, not equated ad value or having a clip book thud.

The looks of disbelief and folks asking what we do all day is irksome. So it baffles me when I read posts and hear people talking/positioning social media in a way that will only open it up to skepticism.  Things like “engagement,” “understanding the community,” “we need to be in the space” and “if we’re not there we lose ground with the competition,” are common statements. While I agree with many of them, without substance they breed skepticism.

If you are confused, let me clarify. Social networks are a powerful communications tool that should be managed by communications professionals, however unlike traditional PR, offer hard metrics to present to executive to show real value.

So how do you overcome this? By setting goals that you can tie back to the business. Now there is no right or wrong thing to track and measure that can be tracked back to your work. Some basic units to measure could be direct sales via a specific landing page or coupon brought into a store; or you can measure traffic coming to your site from social networks and tracking that back to registered leads.

Aside from those metrics, you can pull up equated net promoter scores, social influence marketing score and conversation share (I blogged about what each is here). Using these metrics along with the ones above can show the ebbs and flows of sales and traffic correlating to the social currency that you are building. If you don’t find value in these metrics or want some other measurement methods, check out some of the great insights from fellow PRBC writer Rebecca Denison.

If you don’t believe it can be done, look at the micro-industry that was build around personal brands like Peter Shankman, Chris Brogan and Perez Hilton. They have all made a living off of their usage in the social space – you can do the same for your company. Trust me, I work in the space every day and have seen results.

At the end of the day you will have to find what works best for you. Once found, stick with it and make it work, because at the end of the day, companies look at all ventures on a dollars and cents level.

So you have two choices, to position warm and fuzzy rainbows and unicorns or pull a Jerry Maguire. For me, I would rather be like Randy Moss – straight cash homey – than trying to sell a fairy tale. And if you can’t show value to your company in the space, they will find someone who can.

Also if you aren’t active in the social side of things, but are looking for relevant metrics on PR, I’d suggest checking out KD Paine’s measurement blog.

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