PR Needs a Moneyball Makeover

Even though The Lion King in 3D topped the box office this weekend, I raced to see the new Brad Pitt flick, Moneyball. I read the book on which the movie is based when I was in college just getting into PR and measurement. (If you haven’t yet read Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball, I highly recommend it.)

In the movie, one baseball coach uses the power of statistics to build a record-breaking team after losing his three all-star players. The movie glosses over much of the nitty gritty math, but you walk away with the same overall message: numbers are powerful.

And this is true in all industries, not just baseball or sports. But it’s not necessarily the big and sexy numbers that matter. It’s fun to say your latest campaign was likely seen by 100 million people, but does it make your team more efficient? Does it make your message more powerful or drive more sales?

Most often when folks talk about baseball players, they focus on stats like home runs, RBIs and batting average. But are these really the most important numbers to the man building the team?

Your views on baseball aside, this is a clear example of measuring based on objectives. What’s the objective of any baseball team? To win? To score runs? Nope, those are too broad and too vague. That’s like saying the objective of your campaign is to be awesome. These are really goals.

So if the goal is to win by scoring runs, what’s your objective? If you say to get as many homeruns as possible, you’re likely to fail. Think about it.

How many times is a homerun hit in the average game or the average season? A good team may collectively hit 160 homeruns each season. Each team plays 162 games each season. Do you think that team is going to win the World Series relying on less than one run each game? Doubt it.

RBIs, or runs batted in, are certainly more meaningful. The more runs brought home, the better. But even if you had a team comprised solely of players with the best RBI stats, you’d likely lose. If there are no players on base in the first place, how are you going to bat them in?

On base percentage. The objective should be to get players on base. If they don’t get on base, they will not score (with the exception of those rare homeruns).

This isn’t obvious at first glance, and it was contrary to the way baseball was used to doing things until a few men started to use on base stats to their advantage.

PR needs a Moneyball makeover. The industry must focus on identifying objectives that really accomplish the end goal, and there needs to be a more realistic fit with numbers measured.

Is your goal to drive sales? Then stop measuring impressions. Measure sales or sales leads or purchase intent (anything tied to your goal!). Is your goal to foster positive feelings about a brand or its new product? Stop tracking hits. Understand how opinions of the brand change over time. Measure to show you’ve successfully achieved your goal.

History only remembers the guy who wins the last game, not the homeruns. Similarly, no one will remember that your campaign drove 100 million impressions if you didn’t accomplish your goal.

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