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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  • I loved Moneyball too! Just waiting for my husband to finish the book so I can get my hands on it. And I agree with your statement “The industry must focus on identifying objectives that really accomplish the end goal.” Couldn’t have said it better myself…thanks Rebecca!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, too! The book gets more in depth into the actual metrics and does some cool profiles of key players. I really loved it! I hope you do, too! 🙂

  • Haeffele8

    It is true that so many people seem to go after high impression numbers; including myself!  Like you said, it would be fun to say your latest campaign was seen by 100,000 people.  But since when were most organizations and companies looking to simply raise awareness?  There is a reason behind building awareness, whether it is increasing donations, gaining profits, or increasing/remedying public image.  Thanks for making me step back and remind myself of my true PR goals.  (I also loved the baseball comparison)

    • I could not have said it better myself. Of course we all want to raise awareness, but that’s just the means to the end. Wonderfully said, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Jordan728

    I complete agree with you on this post Rebecca. Having a high number of views doesn’t necessarily translate to an effective or successful campaign in PR. Without measurable goals, it also becomes much harder to know how far your campaign has come or where it’s going. I like that you address in your analogy that professionals need to explore more forms of measurement rather than just the bottom line. It takes much more for a PR campaign to be successful than just a good idea. Much like a baseball team needs more than just a home run hitter to win games.

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  • Mollie128

    I felt that this post was extremely relevant in today’s PR world where I’ve found in internships and positions I’ve held that so many projects are numerically centered. In terms of distribution of products and attendance to events our goals are typically based upon numbers rather than the use or return on advertisements or things donated or purchased at events. Thanks for this post, I could relate to it and thought it was a good reminder to focus on the purpose behind what we do.

    • Glad it was helpful! Sometimes focusing on raw numbers like attendees is applicable, it always depends on your goal! 🙂

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  • KristinM

    Good points in this post.  If the right objectives aren’t identified, and the right numbers aren’t measured, how can you tell if a campaign has been successful?  Although, I do like the idea of having a campaign objective of being awesome.  🙂

    • That should always, always be your goal. Quantifying awesome is just the hard part. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed reading this post. As I read the posts on this blog I am starting to realize how good of job you all do with connecting different areas of life to PR. Even with not knowing all that much about baseball I really understood this post. One of my PR professors was just making the point of having specific goals and being able to measure those goals. I feel that this really needs to be emphasized in the PR world. While my professor talked about this, it seemed hard for students to really grasp this idea. I think it is more of a problem for PR people to specify their goals then it is to find a relevant form of evaluation. I feel my professor would agree with this post 100 percent!

    • Whitney, we’re so glad you keep coming back and find our posts valuable! It sounds like you have a smart professor. We need to make sure more students like you learn about measurement early and remember to do it when they reach their careers.

      You hit it right on the head. Often the bigger issue isn’t the ability to measure (or not), it comes down to whether there is even a whole to measure against.

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