“Fake news and alternative facts are resulting in a dramatic decrease in trust”: Q/A with Katie Paine, CEO, Paine Publishing

Katie Paine, keynote at the 48th World Media Intelligence Congress of FIBEP in Washington DC, November 2016

Katie Paine, keynote at the 48th World Media Intelligence Congress of FIBEP in Washington DC, November 2016

Katie Paine, founder and CEO of Paine Publishing, kicks off this interview with one of her resolutions for 2017, as she decides to move from measurement to data analysis. Next, she shares her views on how can PR professionals make sure they are not distracted by fake news or alternative facts in their measurement reports. Moving on, she elaborates on how challenging statistics can be in measurement and how can we choose between facts and emotions and ends us telling why Big Data is not a problem any more.

Q: One of your resolutions for 2017 is to move from measurement to data analysis. Why?

Katie: Too many communications professionals associate measurement with counting things – i.e. how many likes did we get, how many placements –those numbers don’t help you communicate more effectively or do your job more efficiently. It’s only when we analyze data – to examine the correlations between likes or placements and conversions and revenue – that we learn things to help us make our programs better.

Q: From fake news to alternative facts: how can PR professionals make sure they do not measure two sets of “facts” to reach a singular truth?

Katie: Certainly, good filters on your data, careful screening and cleaning of data to weed out the spam-bots and fake news sites is critical to preventing fake news from ending up in your measurement report.

But the issue goes far beyond just getting a singular truth. Fake news and alternative facts are resulting in a dramatic decrease in trust. The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer shows a dramatic decline in trust in media, government and businesses. Without trust in fundamental institutions, we get anarchy or kleptocracies. To rebuild that trust in the minds of our stakeholders we need transparency, consistency and data.

Data is the fundamental cornerstone of trust. In communications, when so much of what we do is creative and subjective, too many decisions get made on gut instinct or emotion. Therefore, we need data and metrics that are aligned with goals to ensure that decisions are being made in a rational way.

Secondly, there’s no shortage of research that shows that transparency is the best way to rebuild trust, so organizations have get past their reluctance to talk about difficult subjects and fully embrace the notion that telling all and talking about the tough stuff has to  happen. This means backing up statements and claims with real, verifiable, publicly available data.

In measurement, the best data is that which is based on agreed upon standard methodology and conducted consistently over time.

One of the biggest problems with measuring social media is that the various social networking and listening platforms are constantly changing their metrics and their calculations. This leads to frustration and confusion. So, keep your metrics clean and simple, but most importantly keep them consistent.

Q: How challenging statistics can be in measurement? How do we choose between facts and emotions?

Katie: Just the word statistics is scary to most communications professionals because most of them went into a profession that emphasizes words and emotions just so they could avoid statistics.

But today, there is no avoiding statistics because it is how business decisions get made.  Most business leaders today have grown up in a world where data is plentiful and available so when any decision needs to be made, they will first look to data. Every financial decision made in 2017 will have some component of statistics. Thanks to the availability of data today, managers today aren’t looking at communications and saying “should we do more on Facebook vs Twitter?” They’re trying to decide whether social media is a more effective lead generator than a customer event or new marketing tech platform.  If communications professional insists on trying to make their case via emotions alone, they won’t last long.

Q: Does big data still pose a problem to marketers? 

Katie: I don’t think big data is a problem. A few years ago, it was tough to wrangle large volumes of data into anything that resembled insight. But with the arrival of integrated dashboards and marketing tech platforms like Proof, analyzing big data is becoming accessible to those without a computer science degree.

About Katie Paine

Katie Paine

Katie Delahaye Paine is founder and CEO of Paine Publishing, LLC and Publisher of The Measurement Advisor, a newsletter devoted entirely to measurement topics. She has spent the last three decades helping organizations define and measure success for their communications’ programs. She has designed measurement programs and bespoke metrics for some of the world’s most admired organizations including NATO, PBS, National Wildlife Federation, AbbVie, Pfizer, Viacom, Procter & Gamble, Southwest Airlines, Raytheon and the Federal Reserve Bank.

Paine was a leading force behind The Conclave’s Standards for Social Media Measurement as well as the Barcelona Principles. She founded two research companies, The Delahaye Group (now Cision) and KDPaine & Partners (now Carma.) She has authored three books, Measure What Matters (Wiley, March 2011) Measuring Public Relationships (KDPaine & Partners 2007) and“Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, Using Data to Change the World,”  which won the 2013 Terry McAdam Book Award for non-profits.  Paine is also a founding member of IPR’s Measurement Commission, a member of the PRNewsMeasurement Hall of Fame and a board member of the Society for New Communications Research. For the past decade she has served on the board of Exeter Health Resources, a local community health system that includes the top-ranked hospital in New Hampshire.

About Paine Publishing

Paine Publishing

Paine Publishing exists to help organizations establish effective, meaningful communications measurement programs that are in compliance with published industry standards. We educate, train and consult on measurement of PR, Social Media and Corporate Communications. Our offerings include a subscription-based newsletter (The Measurement Advisor), tutorials, eBooks, access to free research papers, and much more.

To learn more about Paine Publishing you can visit painepublishing.com, follow on Twitter Facebook, YouTube or reach them via email.

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