Measuring Public Relations

We hear all the time how important public relations are, but are there reliable methods to gauge its effectiveness? After all, for an expensive service, it had better be providing something. Although its harder to measure the efficacy of PR efforts than it is to measure the same statistics for say, advertising, there are many ways to measure the reach and success of a PR message.

Some of the most popular ways of measuring Public Relations include:

  • Content Analysis–Is your core narrative being reported accurately in the press?
  • Market Surveys–Typically this will involve before-and-after surveys regarding awareness of your brand
  • Measuring your Website Traffic–It’s important to take a look at your website traffic before, during, and after PR
  • Mentions on Social Media–What are people saying about your brand?

These are all useful tools for measuring a PR campaign’s efficacy; is your brands story being told? Is it resonating with potential customers? If not, it may be that your story isn’t reaching a wide enough group of people.

To ensure your PR is reaching the maximum number of people, it’s important to take a look at one of the most important and accurate tools: media impressions.

What is a Media Impression?

A media impression is a comprehensive calculation of the number of people who have heard about your company within a given time period. For instance, if your company or product was mentioned on a television show that had 1 million viewers, that would count as 1 million media impressions.

However, media impressions are not limited to television or print media. At its broadest definition, a media impression can be nearly any interaction a reader or viewer has with a piece of content. Technically, every time you scroll by an advertisement on Facebook, that’s an imprint.

While media impressions are an important way to measure your PR efforts, it’s crucial to take many other steps to properly create brand awareness. Think about it: just because somebody sees a television ad or drives past a billboard doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll remember these messages, let alone buy> the product.

To get to that level, you need to work on engagement. Are people paying attention to your message? Digital marketing is easier to examine in this way, because you’ll be able to look at statistics such as how long people are spending on each page.

Integrating these Tools

As you can see, by looking at a number of different statistics and metrics, it’s possible to track and measure your PR efforts. Through a combination of PR and digital marketing strategies, you can optimize your company’s visibility and the overall strength of your brand.

How to Talk about your Measurement Data

PR measurement is the business communicator’s equivalent to Groundhog Day. PR pros could be forgiven if they feel like they are the living the same day over and over when it comes to trying to demonstrate the value of their activities. That’s not to say PR pros haven’t made any progress regarding metrics; the rise of online analytics has enabled communicators to gauge their digital PR efforts and get a better read on the types of messages that resonate with their audiences.

Nonetheless, there are miles to go, and many CFOs still view PR as a cost center and not a profit center. With that in mind, here are a few ways tips for PR pros to boost their measurement programs and think more strategically about measurement and metrics.

Be more selective

From Google Analytics (which has a free component) to the bevy of paid analytics services available online, there’s no shortage of measurement tools for PR pros to adopt and put to use. But PR execs need discriminate when it comes to analytics or they risk drowning in a sea of a data and throwing bad money after good. Start out incrementally. Liaise more frequently with the head of IT to find out which measurement tools are the most user-friendly and the most appropriate gauge for your PR and content marketing programs.

Lose the vanity metrics

While vanity metrics—including the number of likes and followers to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, respectively—will help keep you cocktail-party-compliant, such metrics have been roundly dismissed as having any real value for PR. Shift your mindset to what the marketplace views as more legitimate marketing metrics, such as whether consumers who initially check out your content move (however circuitously) to the path of purchase or the amount of time consumers spend watching one of your branded videos. If you work for an automotive company, how many people contacted dealers after engaging with your PR your content? If you work for a financial services company how many people contacted a sales rep after engaging with your content? Locate those legitimate business threads and publicize them.

Speak the language

A constant knock on communicators is that when they explain their business activities to the C-suite they fail to speak in language that senior managers can appreciate and instead resort to PR-ese. This does PR pros no favors. Communicators once and for all must stop couching their metrics in terms like “media impressions” and “media hits” and start speaking in “spreadsheet” terms, or how their activities align with the company’s financial goals and objectives. You need to show the C-suite how PR can generate concrete results. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.  Don’t give your CFO another excuse to call PR and marketing execs the “arts and crafts” crowd.