KPIs and strategies: A look at reinventing the wheel

It was the summer of 2017 and I had just moved overseas, fresh-faced and excited to be trying my hand in the rush and the hubbub of London. I was eager for my new role in PR after moving across half the world, that kind of giddy excitement that can only come from starting over. Like Lady Gaga, I felt like I had completely reinvented myself – this was going to be the new me. Not long after arriving, one of my first jobs was working with a big Fortune 500 company, aiming to build their brand awareness further and help shape their image. I was tasked in my first week with writing up a new story and getting coverage, but when I asked them what their goal was, I was met with silence and blank stares before a “just get us coverage”.

It wasn’t long before I realised there was no strategy in place, choosing to forego it and any kind of reporting in the interest of quick wins. Their tactics it seemed was to create as many pieces of “interest” as possible and throw it out into the universe, hoping one sticks or becomes viral. There was no rhyme or reason, so when they said jump, we did just that.

I was shocked that such a huge and reputable business wouldn’t even give a second thought to a clear structure, to help them drive forward success (and measure that success). They barely gave any thought at changing the status quo, whether internally or externally. Instead, they wanted to just get by, not change their ways. Their reluctance it seemed was holding them back.

In fact, over my career, I have seen this be a recurring issue for companies both big and small – favouring quick wins and standard activities over clear, measurable goals. Without a strategy in place, clearly defined goals and KPIs to measure those goals and define what success is, you’re just shooting in the dark.

The challenges of quick wins over strategy

Over my years working in PR & Communications, I have come across three challenges that often keep coming up:

  1. Expectations over outcomes: When two businesses work together, there are often expectations going into it. If it’s not spoken aloud, or even thought through clearly, then success is insubstantial and undefined. I might be thinking we’re hitting a home run, but you see us as still standing idly on first base. This comes down to defining what success looks like to you.
  2. Lack of clarity on KPIs: A goal is what you want to achieve, KPIs define how you know when you’ve achieved it or on your way towards it. Without a defined goal, you can’t define your KPIs and you’re stuck without a strategy. To continue with my sports analogies, the goal posts currently don’t exist.
  3. Changing goals: Again, this comes down to expectations and a lack of clarity on your strategy and KPIs. This can also come about when you need to pivot your business. If there’s anything last year taught us, is that we always need to be on our toes.

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