Published on March 22, 2017
For years, the PR industry has struggled with how to effectively measure PR in any sort of standardized manner.
Unlike advertising where a few key metrics clearly define success, PR’s complex, relationship-based structure makes identifying metrics for widespread adoption far more challenging.
Because “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” metrics are crucial to PR pros’ success. How can PR pros solve the industry’s problem and quantify efforts that have historically been difficult to measure?
For starters, we have to begin with the right question: What are the metrics that matter to those who matter?
Because PR has the ability to “touch” so many aspects of the customer journey, we can’t look at measurement through a one-to-one transactional lens. PR professionals should not be forced to define success or failure based on one element only such as impressions or site traffic.
The goal of measuring PR needs to be about putting a series of metrics in place that accounts for all the places where PR can impact the customer journey. PR is no longer just a top of the funnel contributor, so its performance metrics must adjust to reflect the influence PR has along every touch point in the funnel.
If we are clear about what matters to colleagues, executives, and PR teams, we can organize a spectrum of PR metrics into three key areas where measurement is actually possible from a technology standpoint.
These key areas include:
1. Baseline metrics
2. Brand metrics
3. Business metrics
Metrics closer to the top of the funnel are more aligned with brand awareness. As one goes down the “metric funnel,” you get closer and closer to metrics that impact your organization’s bottom line.
All these metrics have validity, but the ones a PR pro chooses to focus on should directly align with the primary end outcome identified from the outset of any campaign.
So, how can PR pros start to integrate this funnel of metrics into their workflow?
To identify which metrics might serve you best, consider these three questions in relation to your PR activities:
1. Content: What format shall I choose based on the audience I’m trying to reach? (Text, image, video, combo, etc.)
2. Channel: What conduit am I using to deliver my content so I can best reach my target audience? (Earned media, owned media, newswire, direct pitch, etc.)
3. Measurement: How am I defining success? (Story pick-up, message pull-through, traffic back to site, etc.)
This simple exercise, when done diligently, can exponentially increase the probability of PR success and makes it clear which metrics in the funnel you should gather data against.
If the goal of your work is to have as many people as possible encountering your news, you likely should focus on baseline metrics. But if your work is aimed at generating leads or interest via your website, business metrics are likely where you’ll measure success.
The most important thing is to not feel limited in choosing just one metric from the funnel. Multiple metrics reported in tandem will convey the full story of PR’s impact. Also, be sure to select primary and secondary PR outcomes before selecting metrics.
It’s only when all these metrics work together that PR pros will be truly empowered to dig into signals that identify relationships worth having, topics worth discussing, messages that resonate, and ultimately how your brand or organization is perceived.