I was preparing for this column by looking up the definition of measure. My American Heritage Dictionary listed 17 different definitions for the word and then went on to list 19 more related uses.

Don’t get me wrong. This column isn’t a plug for American Heritage Dictionary. However, I was amazed at the number of different ways we use the word in the English language. My favorite and most useful definition is “an evaluation or basis of comparison.”

Measuring is probably the most critical element of a successful marketing or advertising campaign. It is one thing to have a great idea and to present it well. But if your audience doesn’t understand your message or reacts badly to it, the idea is for naught.

Let’s say you are test-driving a new “clean-and-inspect” program for your residential or commercial customers. You come up with a catchy name for it, list all of the services you will provide, decide on a fair and reasonable price that allows you to make a profit, and, more importantly, secure future business with your customer (meaning more opportunities for profit).

So far, so good.

You launch the program and sit back, awaiting the results. The phones are ringing a little more and your appointment schedule is filling up nicely. Is this because of the program, or did some other local phenomenon, such as a heat wave, cause the increased business?

Wouldn’t you like to know if the program worked?

Sure you would — and that’s why you measure the results. It could be as simple as your customer service rep asking why the caller chose this time to call, or coding a response card/mailer to record how many people responded to your program.

If the program works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, tweak it a bit until you hit on the right campaign.

The News started “Work Seekers” to bring together contractors and hvacr students seeking work as field service techs or installers. I’ve been measuring the success of the program and am happy to report that all of the respondents whose ads appeared in The News said they were contacted by at least one contractor (and in most cases, several contacts).

That’s encouraging. I hope that all work seekers keep me informed of their progress. The same is true for contractors reaching out to them. If you have contacted or hired one of the work seekers, please drop me a line. Help me measure the program’s success.

Here’s one final note about measurement. I talked with Steve Cofta the other day. Steve and his students at the Kenton Career Center in Tonawanda, NY, were featured in my article, “Where are the Decent Paying Jobs” in the April 3 issue of The News.

Steve’s students were down on the local Buffalo market and were concerned about their futures in the area’s mechanical trades. The article shed a new light on them.

Cofta has been getting phone calls from across the United States, inquiring about the availability of the students. One contractor in the South offered to pay for moving expenses for one of the students to pack up and begin work and a new life down there.

Cofta mentioned that the article lifted up the spirits of the students and gave them renewed hope that they would find what they were looking for in the job market.

This is a story of how the power of the press (in this case, The News) brought swift and measurable results.

I’ll follow up on this story in the coming months and report back to you. It’s a story that bears repeating in many communities around our country. In fact, drop me a line, and maybe the next story of measurement will be from a school in your community.

I found out how powerful the printed word is, thanks to this story. And I’m sure there are many similar scenarios out there, where one word can make a big difference in the lives of workers and contractors.

It made a difference in Kenton, where hope was the only measuring device I needed.