For years, those doing public relations work have been challenged by the absence of concrete and consistent methods of results measurement and adoption of key performance indicators for program evaluation. But that’s changed.
Today there are sophisticated ways to measure PR success, and our data-driven marketing culture means that any business investing in PR and communications must implement a measurement strategy.
More importantly, after years of dithering, the industry has grappled with the metrics issue and agreed upon a set of standards and practices known informally as the Barcelona Principles.
The principles are only a baseline, however. Measurement of PR outcomes isn’t an exact science, so the definition of success is still open to interpretation and individual needs. But there are some basic elements to keep in mind when incorporating PR measurement into your communications program.
First, tie outcomes to business objectives. The more specific, the better. Saying “growing the business” is a fine overall goal, but to put a communications program to work, it’s important to have greater granularity and relevance to the overall business or organization.
For example, is your business well established in Europe but now ready to ramp up in America, with an eye on tech-savvy users in creative professions? Or are you seeking to connect with potential business and brand partners for future programs? Maybe you’re an early stage startup on a fast growth track, and your goal is to be acquired by a larger technology company within two years. All of the above are real life scenarios we’ve worked on; knowing each company’s specific goals enabled us to develop a successful PR program and define our wins.
Use technology tools. The most valuable data is that which offers understanding of your target audience, and how they interact and engage with content, whether in a news article, on social media, or on a website. There’s a host of accessible tools and methods to help measure everything from number of placements and mentions to growth in viewership or followers, or to track engagement metrics, SEO rankings, and conversions. Google Analytics covers many of these, and is a favorite tool of communications professionals. The Moz suite is helpful and user-friendly in tracking backlink performance, and also shows data for Twitter and search results.
Measure for quality as well as quantity. Numbers are important, but qualitative aspects like sentiment, message pull-through, and audience analysis should be incorporated into evaluation of PR outcomes — and those most likely will always require a human touch. Consider metrics such as share of voice versus key competitors, which can be significant in noisy categories.
In some situations — such as healthcare awareness, political and public opinion campaigns, and issues-driven programs — it’s important to establish pre-and-post-research to measure opinion change, intent, or actions taken.
The bottom line is that communications outcomes should rest on general principles, but they must be tailored to individual needs, budgets, and goals.
For more on PR measurement, download our free tipsheet, “PR Metrics & KPIs: A Glossary of Terms.”