PR measurement isn’t perfect, but it works

PR measurement isn’t perfect, but it works

People ask us: “So, Bayview, how do we measure this PR stuff anyway?”

We might say: “Well, client, the best that we can.”

There’re many ways to tell if a PR program is working - though, notably, there is no agreed-upon standardization by the governing body of our profession. (The Barcelona Principles provide some nice guidelines, but it’s not a formula where businesses can just enter numbers and simply quantify results).

And that makes sense, as the approach to PR measurement really has to be specifically tailored for each individual campaign. There’s an array of possible metrics to choose from – and a different combination is required for each unique situation.

Foremost, we look at: “What exactly are we trying to change?” Is it an enhanced reputation, or register-rings, or new customers, or more business with existing customers, or ticket sales, or increased attendance, or sponsorship money, or more volunteers, or votes, or web hits, or phone calls, or traffic in your store, or… you get the point? There needs to be at least one overlying objective to a campaign, and your PR representation should be clearly contributing to that.

Then, breaking that down, we consider such factors as:

  • New relationships
  • Improved relationships
  • Changed opinions
  • Spikes in web traffic
  • Improved SEO
  • Lead-to-sale ratio
  • Newsletter click-throughs
  • Social media activity/engagement
  • A better informed and more actively communicating staff

If the campaign is mostly or heavily focused on media relations, we can also look at such factors as:

  • Amount and type of news coverage
  • Prominence and reach of coverage
  • If key messages made it through
  • If pictures are included
  • Tone of the piece

And finally – sometimes most importantly – qualitative elements contribute to the long-term value of an organization’s brand, including:

  • Validity
  • Credibility
  • Front-of-mind presence
  • Positive perceptions

PR works (well, good PR works) – that’s why it’s a growing industry. But without a precise, uniform, accountant-friendly form of measurement, isn’t it sort of a gamble? Yeah, sure, especially with the abundance of firms out there that hide a lack of achievement in graphs and charts that are as colorful as they are meaningless. The key is to focus not on outputs but on outcomes – focus on what resulted from the PR results.

If you’re working with a firm that is still measuring column inches and using advertising-equivalency-values, maybe it’s time you suggest they leave their fancy charts back at grandpa’s agency, then shop around for a PR firm that’s focused on and proven in creating real-life bottom-line results.