Home Blog Uncategorized The cold, hard truth: The PR and ad industries are still hooked on “vanity metrics”

The cold, hard truth: The PR and ad industries are still hooked on “vanity metrics”


If you spent a few minutes on social media last week, you undoubtedly heard about South Dakota’s new anti-meth ad campaign (here’s the link to one story–I share an AdWeek link below).

This sparked all kinds of conversation–mostly around why the campaign was a failure. But, one side conversation that I found particularly interesting revolved around metrics. Specifically–vanity metrics.

You know, impressions, followers, page views. Vanity metrics. They are usually easily manipulated and don’t tie back to numbers that really matter like new customers or leads. In this case, people were lamenting that South Dakota may be measuring the success of the campaign on vanity metrics like impressions and “reach”–after all, it did get people talking! So, from that perspective, big win, right? Possibly. But, there’s much more to this puzzle than just impressions.

What South Dakota really wants is to smoke out (no pun intended) its meth problem. A quick visit to onmeth.com and you can see the two big CTAs are “I need help” and “I want to help”. So, I think it would reasonable to say that two big metrics from them are going to be how many people click on those two buttons on the web site, and ultimately, how many people seek treatment and how many people seek to volunteer.

So, in this case, I would say South Dakota is probably looking at both vanity metrics (early on) and actionable metrics (long term). But, is South Dakota in the minority? Are we, as an industry, still hung up on these vanity metrics?

I’d say “yes.”

I still see companies measuring follower counts for Pete’s sake! In 2019! Impressions are always a metric we track (especially in PR). And, despite Gini Dietrich’s efforts, the PESO model isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be.

No, folks, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are still hooked on vanity metrics. Now, some of that is not our fault. The leaders we work for are often pushing these metrics because they’re easy to understand. They’re easy to “see.” But, it’s our job to push back on that thinking. It’s our job to educate these leaders. It’s our job to push for more actionable results. Sure, it might be harder. It’s going to be tougher work. But, in the end, it’ll mean better results for the businesses we serve, and more credibility for our industry.

Your thoughts? Do you think we’re still hooked on vanity metrics?



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