Regardless of whether you work for an agency or in-house PR team, upper-level executives or clients will ask why you do what you do, how it affects the business and how you can show results.
Not all PR tactics directly affect the bottom line, but if you don’t have measurement tools and dashboards in place, the questions that clients and managers commonly ask could indicate that it’s well past time to start. Gather data in advance of these questions to give clients and executives the answers they’re looking for.
Here are a few questions you’re likely to hear if you don’t have a measurement plan:
1. “What is a media hit’s real impact?”
Earned media—the coverage you obtain through effective public relations efforts—is notoriously difficult to measure. Though a media hit will increase a brand’s reputation and put it in front of consumers, it will also increase a brand’s website traffic, search engine optimization ranking and a host of other measures.
When media impressions aren’t enough, measurement tools such as OpenSiteExplorer from Moz can help demonstrate a media hit’s impact on the client’s search ranking and number of external links back to the website.
These external links—from the publication and any other websites, blogs or forums that syndicate or reference the original article—will show the marketing and communications team that a simple hit goes beyond a link. More links mean more traffic and, if the website converts, more sales.
2. “Where does our brand rank among our competitors?”
When a client asks how the brand ranks against competitors, he’s probably referencing what’s called “share of voice.” Share of voice is a marketing metric that incorporates aspects of a brand’s paid, earned and owned media presence and shows how they measure up next to competitors.
Share of voice is one of the most misleading and misunderstood forms of PR measurement. If someone asks about share of voice, consider adding new dimensions and perspectives to your metrics, such as conversations, engagement and sharing behaviors.
3. “Why should we bother with social media when we get nothing out of it?”
This is tricky. The answer will depend heavily on the industry and where the brand’s audience resides. With access to measurement tools such as Google Analytics, we can see how much traffic social networks direct to the brand’s website; Google does the heavy lifting for you.
Check out the chart below. Google Analytics automatically separates social media traffic (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) from other traffic sources, such as organic search or paid ads.
These three questions hint that your stakeholders aren’t seeing the right metrics. Measurement tools give you the data to answer the above questions and more. Don’t think of the tools as just more programs or software you have to learn. They exist to help you, and if you dig into the data they provide, they make measuring key performance indicators or goals a lot easier.
Tori Sabourin is a marketing analyst. A version of this article originally appeared on Shift Communications.