How to measure PR and what to look for to know if it’s really working
Whether it’s traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers), digital media (websites, blogs) and social media coverage that mentions, features or tags your brand, the big question we hear most in the PR world is – how do I know it’s working?
In this post, we cover the burning questions that most brands and PR agencies struggle to get an answer to – how to value PR, how to know what’s really going to work, and what to look for to see if it’s working.
SET YOUR PR GOALPOSTS
HOW DO WE CURRENTLY VALUE PR?
So many old-school techniques – like measuring up column inches (we actually used to get a ruler out!), to finding out how much the article would cost if you were advertising (Advertising Value Equivalent or AVE) – just won’t tell you the whole story:
- What if an article is negative? Is a $5,000 page in a magazine then worth -$5,000? Obviously not – the impact on your business could be far more devastating.
- What if the article is not just about you, but also 4 of your competitors? Would the value be one-quarter of a page? Probably not, especially if you come out looking better (or worse)
- What about social media? There’s no agreed way to value social media posts?
So whilst many agencies and PRs are still using the AVE or similar methods, it’s also widely agreed that it’s not actually reflecting the true value of PR.
SO, HOW CAN WE MEASURE IF PR IS EFFECTIVE?
A group of PRs from around the globe met to discuss exactly this question. Essentially these global PR experts all agreed on one thing when it comes to measuring PR – you don’t HAVE to AVE.*
It’s tempting if we want to measure the return on investment – we spent $$ on PR, so what did we get back for it? But for the reasons we outlined above, you’re only getting part of the picture. Here’s the new way forward.
GET CLEAR, REALLY CLEAR.
Before you start, you need to get specific about what you want your PR to do and set concrete goals you can benchmark your success against.
Seriously, write the answers down to these 3 questions:
1. WHO are you trying to reach, with WHAT messages?
Who exactly are your customers? What should they see, hear, read, know about the brand that they don’t know already?
2. WHAT do you want them to UNDERSTAND?
What do they know and believe now? What should they believe and feel?
3. WHAT do you want them to DO as a result of your communications?
This is key and missing from a lot of strategies. Get specific with the results you want in your business – HOW MUCH of WHAT and BY WHEN?
These are the goalposts for your PR. Every single result in your PR can now be measured against how effectively they contribute to these goals.
RATE & MEASURE
RATE YOUR PR COVERAGE
It’s generally agreed that you need to take two things into consideration when measuring the outputs of your PR campaigns:
1. Reach – How many people saw it? (circulation, readership, unique views, followers)
2. Appropriateness – How good was it really?
Appropriateness means getting real about:
- Whether the media outlet is on brand
- Will it be read by your target audience
- What is the tone of the piece? Good, bad, luxe, budget – is it a fit?
- How much of this piece is actually about your brand
- How visible is it?
- How much of your key message (your WHAT) was included
- Did it include a call to action?
A really simple way to do this is to add a number 1-5 next to each of these – 1 being the lowest/least value and 5 the highest/most value, and adding them up and dividing by 7 to get an average. This is your appropriateness score for this piece of editorial.
Looking at the figures for reach and appropriateness can tell you whether the PR is pointing people in the right direction and how many of them.
You can now rate every piece of traditional, digital and social press for reach and appropriateness, look at averages per month and season, and see directly if your PR is hitting the mark.
I CAN’T SEE SALES SPIKE? HOW DO I KNOW PR IS WORKING?
If you want to see a PR person wince, ask them to create a strategy that will directly drive sales. No PR can guarantee this, and if they do – RUN.
Can PR help to drive sales? Absolutely. But of course, it’s not as simple as that!
Here’s what PR CAN do:
- Drive awareness of your brand and product offering
- Increase knowledge and share your key messages
- Create preference towards your brand and elevate positioning
- Generate action amongst your target audience – lead generation, increase customer loyalty, and establish, protect and grow market share
If you were solely looking for spikes in sales, you wouldn’t see how your PR is effectively creating an environment for your business to flourish now and in future.
MEASURE YOUR OUTCOMES
So here are the outcomes that you CAN and SHOULD measure during a PR campaign –
- Website traffic – can you see spikes in your traffic following specific placements or an increase after a period of PR?
- Lead generation – a well-executed campaign can generate sales leads, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly if it was just one piece of coverage that triggered the sale – more likely it’s a much more complicated journey to making the decision from awareness, to the right attitude, to the decision to purchase now
- Social media following – rises or dips in your following can show changing awareness and attitude towards your brand (which can be a result of PR in conjunction with your content and publishing schedule)
- Social media mentions – often increase with well-executed PR, but they can also increase during times of controversy – so this measurement needs to be combined with appropriateness. Use services like Meltwater to measure social mentions.
- Market surveys – PR related questions included in your market research and surveys will help you understand if your target audience is seeing placements and if they are beneficial, neutral, or detrimental to your brand
THE WRAP UP
While measurable results are incredibly important, there are so many more ways your PR is adding value to your business. Your PR is building your brand identity, keeping your competitors out of the spotlight, and forming valuable relationships and attitudes towards your brand that will have lasting impacts on your future success.
By analysing the results of your PR efforts for reach and appropriateness, and monitoring the outcomes within your business, you’ll be much closer to seeing the true value and best of all – able to laser-focus your communications – like a boss!
Image credits: unknown via Pinterest (banner); Hannah Putz by Thomas Lohr; Johannes Linder shot by André Hemstedt & Tine Reimer
* Footnote: They agreed on a set of principles called the Barcelona Principles (Ketchum Global Research and Analytics “The Principles of PR Measurement”).