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PR Metrics

Measuring the Value of Public Relations

April 12, 2017

Let’s talk about every public relations practitioner’s favorite topic: analytics and ROI. OK, are we done rolling our eyes yet? Showing ROI is a necessary and important part of every campaign, so why is it so difficult to discuss when it comes to PR?

PR is about so much more than impressions.

Back in the old days (and for the record, we’re not even talking about THAT long ago, I used to do these calculations when I first started my career!), the most used metric was ad value. For every media hit secured, a PR person would determine how much it would cost to place an ad of equivalent size and that would be used to show the value of the hit. Next, it was impressions (or 2.5 times the circulation). These can be useful, but shouldn’t be the only metrics used. How do they prove PR is supporting marketing goals and business goals?  Not to mention, how do we adapt to the ever-changing world of digital media?

There is no one metric.

I frequently council my clients to look beyond impressions. We live in the era of big data. You need to utilize a variety of metrics and analytics to measure your PR efforts.

Consider this: You have an important message to get to a small micro-community within the Seattle area. You secure a front page placement in the weekly community paper. The circulation of that paper is small, but it is 100% of your target audience. Shouldn’t that hit weigh more than a pickup in a larger paper outside of your target area? What if in addition to the smaller community paper that printed a positive large feature story, you also get a one-line mention in the Seattle Times. Which hit is the better hit? Which hit addresses more of the client’s larger business goals? Which hit did a better job contributing to business outcomes? Impressions can’t help answer those questions.

When it comes to metrics, I like to break them into two categories. Outputs and outcomes. Outputs measure the result of a media placement by itself. Outcomes measure the impact of the placement with regards to business objectives.

Examples of metrics for outputs are:

  • Link of each placement to specific business objectives
  • Medium of placement (digital, print, broadcast)
  • # of impressions
  • Prominence (is the placement a feature article, or a brand mention in a larger industry article?)
  • Content Tone (sentiment)
  • Content messaging (how many of the brand’s messages are included in the article?)
  • Weighting based on match to key target profiles
  • Weighting based on priority times of the year
  • Geographical distribution in the target region (if the goal is statewide coverage, or priority counties within a state, how many placements per county were secured?)

Examples of metrics for outcomes are:

  • Public social media engagement (# of shares, engagements, engagements/posts, Twitter followers, Facebook likes)
  • Web traffic (peaks in proximity to placement)
  • Calls to action
  • Survey results that measure regard (awareness, perception, trial, etc.)

As you can see, the metrics suggested above use empirical data to track both quantity and quality, and line up the brand’s PR and marketing team to show value of the campaign to a CEO or other executive by tying the goals into business objectives.