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Questioning PR Measurement? Please Do!

While most PR professionals have moved well past counting “clips” or calculating ad equivalencies as a gauge of a campaign’s success, there is still no one universally accepted way to measure PR outcomes.

Perhaps there shouldn’t be. While no two campaigns have the same objectives or strategic roadmap, why would the results calculus be the same? Or does the clamor for an “industry standard” make a world of sense? The fact is, PR metrics are evolving just as the industry has.

Take social media. Do followers and fans and likes and thumbs ups translate into tangible benefits for the brand or business? Or are they mere vanity metrics? The answer depends on the brand, its baseline perception, and its goals.

No matter what type of PR campaign you’re running – consumer, product, or professional services PR, the metric that matters is how PR outcomes track to business results. Of course, the quality of media coverage a given campaign produces is vital, and brand reputation has real, measurable value, but the final yardstick is an agreed-upon business goal.

For an e-commerce company, this will often mean website traffic. For a financial services business with a monthly seminar, it may be an increase in attendees and the resulting engagement with the company. For a business with an aggressive thought leadership program in the works, we may pay attention to deliverables like bylined articles or speaking opportunities, but we are ultimately seeking that most precious of all intangibles, influence – the type of influence that creates new customer interest, attracts partners, and supports purchase conversions.

A less recognized part of PR measurement is inside the corporation. Merchandising positive press and social media engagement to senior management isn’t just playing corporate politics; it’s part of achieving greater awareness about what strategic communications can do and how it fits into the bigger business picture.

No matter what type of ROI for PR you seek, the most important measurement definition is the one agreed upon by the communications professional (whether inside the company or at a partner agency) and those who hold the purse strings. We have an obligation to help client companies focus on achieving goals like this “holy trinity” we’ve adopted.

Tangible incremental increase in sales tracked to earned media coverage

Quantifiable change in awareness, knowledge, attitude, opinion, or behavior that occurs as a result of a public relations program or campaign (most effective when PR is only awareness tool employed)

Marked uptick in engagement from:
• visits to website
• requests for information
• sharing website resources
• increased positive comments, (signs of ongoing relationship)

What PR measurements make it onto your must-have list?

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