top communications metrics, COO metrics surveryA new survey of chief communication officers reveals that the executives place a priority on analytics, but measurement practices sometimes fall short.

Most communication leaders oversee key performance indicators or metrics (KPIs) that were once strictly the prevue of marketing, according to the Nasdaq survey of more than 100 COOs and executives with equivalent titles. More than half of respondents say that they are responsible for website marketing and search engine metrics, sales and lead conversion metrics, and customer loyalty KPIs. That illustrates the convergence of PR and marketing and the growing emphasis on measurement.

So Many Metrics, So Little Time

Nearly all respondents agreed on 12 KPIs that should be tracked. Yet in practice, most CCOs (73 percent) watch just four KPIs or fewer. CCOs may lack the resources to track more metrics, they may focus on C-suite priorities, and some metrics may be too complicated to track.

Not surprising, no one single metric rises to the top as the single most popular. Top KPIs include:

  • Sales and lead conversion,
  • Brand awareness,
  • Search ranking,
  • Active coverage,
  • Potential audience reach, and
  • Website traffic.

Surprisingly, ten percent of COOs surveyed cite advertising value equivalencies, long discredited as a viable metric, as the one most important metric, and 95% cite AVEs as a metric to continue to track.

“If AVE is still valued by the C-Suite and makes the KPI dashboard look good, it may be difficult for some to remove that shiny metric no matter its lack of substance,” the report states.

A Lack of Stability & Influence

KPIs can change frequently. Many (69%) say their KPIs can be changed or removed on a quarterly basis based on need or edicts from others in the C-suite. A quarter of responders revise metrics they track each month. Such frequent changes can harm measurement by eliminating steady benchmarks. CCOs lack influence over KPI selection. A surprisingly low percentage (45 percent) of CCOs have the ability to influence and change the KPIs they are responsible for overseeing. That could explain the frequent changes to KPIs.

Lack of COO control over KPIs, lack of stability in metrics, and the popularity of AVEs, is troubling, stated PR measurement expert Katie Paine.

“Frankly, if I were the boss of any of the respondents, I’d be combing LinkedIn to replace them with someone with a business degree,” Paine wrote in her blog The Measurement Advisor.

According to Paine, one bright point in the report is that most CCOs are responsible for four KPIs or fewer. “Too often I see performance reports that are cluttered up with dozens of different KPIs, none of which seem to show any value,” Paine wrote. “The purpose of KPIs, it seems to me, has always been to focus your team’s attention on the few things that really matter.”

Bottom Line: A new survey reveals some unexpected information about key performance indicators (KPIs) that chief communication officers track. A surprising number of organizations often select poor metrics and change their KPS too often. Despite some positive signs, measurement practices have a good deal of room for improvement.