Compared to advertising and marketing, public relations has traditionally been more difficult to measure. While advertising and marketing have been awash in quantifiable measures such as CTR (click through rate), CPC (cost per clicks) and MQLs (marketing qualified leads), public relations can seem a lot vaguer in making the correlation to how media coverage supports the business (and yes, sales) objectives.
While the PR industry has been able to get by for years with even inaccurate measures such as AVE – advertising value equivalent (although it’s still a slow process to extinction), what’s interesting is that even generally acceptable PR measures – like share of voice (how a brand compares in the media against its competitors) and tonality (whether the article is a positive, neutral or negative about the brand) are also not enough.
The challenge with these more established measures is that they can seem isolated to thinking about a program from a PR practitioner’s perspective. Particularly when talking to C-level executives, any metrics need to more specifically underline how PR impacts the business. And when every aspect of a client’s business demands analytics, PR professionals must design their programs with the outcomes in mind.
Here are a few additional measures to consider, which also help craft a more strategic and sophisticated PR program.
While how many articles you’ve generated is a good starting point for media coverage, PR needs to go deeper into this and evaluate the quality of those articles. What types of publications was the company featured in, and are these the right calibre of outlets to reach the company’s target audiences? What is the sentiment about the brand? How much was the company featured as part of the article? How was the company positioned, and is this in line with how the company wants to be perceived? Where the company’s competitors also prominently featured in the story?
A blog post from PR Newswire includes a list of benchmarks to consider so that brands evaluate how to focus on quality rather than quantity, to provide greater insights into media coverage and its impact.
Of course, PR is more than media relations. Especially as traditional media outlets look to amplify their content through social media, popular publishing platforms such as Medium and explore other avenues, brands should also be mindful on how to incorporate social/digital initiatives into the PR mix. With social media becoming more popular as a platform for brands, PR professionals need to understand how to define “engagement” and know that reader comments and conversions are more powerful metrics to assess the impact of a brand compared to shares and reach.
Andrew Raso from the Content Marketing Institute provides further insights on how to evaluate engagement. He notes that “We need to measure engagement the right way because we need to understand how people are really responding to our content. It’s not how many times they click “like” on a Facebook post. It’s not how many people are being driven to a page. Engagement is about how involved people are with the content you create and promote to them.”
In a recent blog post, Kelly Byrd, a PR Engineer at AirPR, notes that “many marketers measure results against the KPIs they and their colleagues are used to – such as impressions – and not necessarily against the metrics that truly show performance.” By integrating with Google Analytics, software like AirPR aim to connect how many potential customers came to a company’s website from a press hit, and can also capture actions conducted by visitors (e.g. downloading a whitepaper) by connecting data to provide more context.
PR has been considered a “top of funnel” contributor to the sales funnel, part of the buyer’s journey when evaluating a brand. While AirPR makes the connection between a visit and a lead through its platform, PR professionals can also look at how content that it develops can help further feed the sales team. For example, an integrated marketing communications program can include customer marketing or a customer reference initiative. Whether it’s through customer win announcements, case studies (written or video), or identifying and providing customer references for prospects, there can be a more direct correlation that PR can make tie back to sales. The value of this can also be highlighted through anecdotal evidence of how customer stories and outputs enable the sales team.
Ahead of developing any PR program, brands and PR professionals should always be clear on what the objectives are, and map results back to tactics. Taking a step back to truly delve into the business will not only result in a more strategic and holistic program, but it will help improve how PR is perceived by senior leaders within the organization.
If you want to learn more, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) has named this month Measurement Month. During September, free events will be held around the world to discuss and learn the latest in measurement and evaluation of communication. As the PR industry continues to evolve and adopt newer, more digital technologies, we need to move away from old-school metrics to a more comprehensive way of looking at how PR supports business objectives. The above examples are just some of the ways that PR professionals can think more broadly.