The 6 types of people you’ll meet in measurement

A look at the people who tackle PR and social media measurement, personified by characters from Harry Potter, The Great Gatsby, and other works of literature.

I’ve spent the past 25 years talking to measurement types, and I’ve seen them all, from role models to rogues. Many of them resemble characters we love and hate from literature and the movies.

Here is a sample of public relations and social media measurement character types. Role model or rogue: which one are you?

Let’s look at the role models first:

1. Lisbeth Salander, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

If there was only one literary character I could hire, it would be Lisbeth Salander. She is the perfect measurement geek. Her ability to find information anywhere about anything is the one superhero skill I’d love to have. More important, she understands both the strengths and limitations of technology. Of course, in order to solve the mystery, she ultimately needs Mikael Blomkvist’s insight and gut.

If you haven’t read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” you might want to go read it and the rest of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series trilogy right now.

2. Hermione Granger, The “Harry Potter” series

If you really want to know, this is who I want to be. I would love to have Hermione‘s discipline, talent, and enormous intellect. She is always the first in her class to master any spell. I love that the Harry Potter trio can only solve most of the conundrums they face with her help.

If you share my admiration, study your textbooks. You too can work magic on those metrics.

And here are the rogues:

3. The Ancient Mariner, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

To paraphrase author Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “Data, data everywhere, nor any stop to think.”

The Ancient Mariner thinks of data as a giant albatross around his neck, so he never stops to analyze it for insight and meaning. He sees measurement as a process that inhibits creativity, and prohibits him from doing everything else he’d rather do.

He collects data constantly, and heaves it over the side of his cubicle onto his boss’s desk hoping the volume of data will produce a raise, or at least a bit of praise. Sadly, his boss has neither the time nor the inclination to make sense of it all, so the Ancient Mariner drifts forever on a flat sea, sailing to nowhere.

4. Dolores Umbridge, the “Harry Potter” series

The much reviled Professor Umbridge has a slavish devotion to the status quo, as dictated by The Ministry of Magic.

Sadly, we find a remarkable number of Umbridges in the measurement world. They are people who refuse to abandon their old ways and continue to provide bad metrics—like advertising value equivalency (AVE)—no matter what the marketplace dictates. They tend to reject social media and say it’s just a fad, and poo-poo the value of integrating social and traditional media.

Dolores Umbridge ends up in Azkaban. We wish we could send all those AVE fans to the same place. Instead, we have to wait until they retire or get fired.

5. Tom Buchanan, “The Great Gatsby”

If you Google the “most-hated literary character,” you’ll find Tom Buchanan near the top. Daisy’s husband is an insufferable fuddy-duddy and a bore. He clings to tradition, and is concerned only with his public image.

Sadly, there are far too many of these annoying characters in cubicles everywhere. They have an amazing degree of arrogance regarding what is good and bad practice, and base none of it on any data. They believe that, because of their positions, they are right.

The good news is that it is easy enough to disprove a Buchanan’s theories. Just take away his polo pony and hit him with some data.

6. Emma Woodhouse, “Emma”

I love Jane Austen, but Emma Woodhouse makes me crazy. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen so many good measurement programs fail when an Emma joins the fray.

The Emmas of the world are control freaks who want to put their imprint on everything. They demand drill downs to the deepest levels of detail, insist on a lot of data illustrated by 148 PowerPoint slides, and then reject the report because they find a typo on page 145.

The problem with these characters is that they can’t get out of the weeds long enough to understand what all the data means. The secret to working well with an Emma is to keep her focused on the big picture, and be very clear about what you need to do with the data.

Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, and publisher of The Measurement Standard newsletter, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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