“Can you measure a relationship?”

During a seminar on how to measure PR activities in social media I got the classic question on whether or not you can measure relationships.

The answer is: Yes, you can.

You can put a price tag on anything. The fundamental question is if the number on that price tag is helping your business to move forward — or not. You could, for instance, check out my Internet Marketing Matrix and calculate how well your online community translates into revenue.

The problem is, however, that business value comes in many shades of grey these days. It probably always did.

Valuing Relationships

Anyone could decide on a specific online purchase, only to change his or her mind moments later simply because the weather outside changes or a phone rings. Human decision-making is a well-studied and complex beast made up of both rational and irrational processes.

But you want to know, right?

A relationship is a complex phenomenon, but you sure can get a lot of value out of a good one. If we see a relation as a simple transaction model, we recognise that different individuals enter into relationships for different reasons. What seems invaluable or abundant at your end might be valuable or scarce at mine — and vice versa.

Therefore, we must view and measure relationships from a perspective of value instead of bottom-line transactions where the brand ends up with someone’s cash in the bank — and that is almost like swearing in church from a business perspective.

The Money-Centric Business

Most companies are managed via one single principle — money. It’s what defines success, it’s what dictates governance, it’s what functions as the prime motivator. Being money-centric has many advantages in business, but not when it comes down to communication.

This is simply because humans play a central roll in communication. A business might see humans as walking-and-talking wallets, but that’s not the way humans see themselves. And it’s not the way humans like to be seen by others, either. To gain access to as many human-controlled wallets as possible, money-centric businesses must tell people that they care about them as human beings. But here’s the thing with humans: We can see through smooth-talk like that from a mile away.

By measuring everything from a perspective of money, chances are that fewer human beings will give you less of theirs.

Yep, causality is a tough cookie sometimes.

Not everything that counts, can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.
Albert Einstein

The Value-Centric Business

Steve Jobs has an interesting take on business at Apple:

Jobs is primarily focused on creating the best product the company can ever bring themselves to manifest. And it’s not “the best product” according to any customer surveys; it’s the best product according to what he himself holds to be true. Jobs has even gone so far as to state that you shouldn’t ask the general public what they want, because they aren’t very good at answering that question.

Being value-centric is not at odds with making money — and Apple’s products should serve as proof of that.

Value-centric businesses tend to do better in this digital first world of ours. this is, of course, due to the fact that we today have word-of-mouth on steroids which puts human beings right at the center of any business model. We all care about money, businesses and people alike, but that’s not how we form trust and deep relationships.

Value First, Money Second

Why is so crucial to understand the difference between a money-centric business and a value-centric business?

This is because a money-centric business can’t measure the value of a relationship in a way that leads to better and deeper relationships; they can just put a price tag on it. But a value-centric business can. They can:

  • Measure how objectively good your products or services are.
  • Measure how the brand is loved by customers the company respects.
  • Measure how the company lives up to its own values.
  • Measure how objectively awesome the company is to work for.
  • Measure what positive change the company is making in the world.

And so on.

If a company primarily is measuring its positive impact on the world, people will respond well to it. If a company is primarily focused on making something awesome for the sake of making it, people will respond well to it. Such companies will often be just as business-savvy as money-centric businesses; not because they want your money, but because they need your money to make their vision come true.

As the saying goes, “what gets measured, gets done.”

Only measuring how to cram more money out of every relationship will have you treating your publics like wallets with legs. And that would be a shame, because human beings have so much more to give other than just their money.

To understand the real value of public relations, what you decide to measure matters more to your business than your method of measuring it.

Photo by Farid Askerov on Unsplash.

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[…] are many ways to attribute value to social media marketing and the right choice depends on the business itself. You could attribute value to certain behaviours; a popular path is to calculate average value per […]


Great stuff here. Couldn’t agree with you more, in fact, I even wrote a book about it: http://cgi.ebay.com/Measuring-Public-Relationships-/220541230940?pt=US_Nonfiction_Book&hash=item3359481f5c


Great stuff here. Couldn’t agree with you more, in fact, I even wrote a book about it: http://cgi.ebay.com/Measuring-Public-Relationships-/220541230940?pt=US_Nonfiction_Book&hash=item3359481f5c