4 standards to set for PR measurement

Boosting a client’s reputation alone won’t cut it anymore. Here are some ways to ensure that you can prove your worth.

I led a roundtable on PR measurement, and we didn’t get past the second slide.

That’s because the first slide asked: “How does your agency measure PR success?”

The PR agency owners in attendance, hailing from all over the country, offered an array of answers with limited crossover among them. I learned that ad equivalency rates have (finally) gone by the wayside, but in their place there has cropped up a slew of metrics that PR agencies and in-house PR pros use.

Based on the points that came up during this discussion and in the many others I’ve had with colleagues over the years, I’d like to offer four standards for PR measurement that could cover all the bases:

1. Earned media and social mentions

Since the dawn of PR, we’ve been counting what we earn. That’s not going to stop, and it shouldn’t. But consider this: Are you assigning a value to every earned placement? Does a tweet by someone with 10,000 followers hold the same weight as one from someone with 1,000 followers within your client’s industry? Does a mention in the local Business Journal have the same impact as a mention in a popular industry blog?

Not all earned results are created equal, so let’s add some depth to those numbers.

How to do this: Because every client has different priorities, the targets you’re going after will vary case by case. When you build your media list, take an extra 30 minutes and score every target based on these factors: direct influence on customer, reach or circulation, and ability to drive leads. When there’s a result, you’ll add a score for length of the story and tonality.

If you’re not using a tool that does this kind of scoring, you can easily come up with a scoring system yourself, maybe on a scale from one to five. The key here is to get buy-in from each client or decision maker on not only whom you’re going after, but how you’re scoring them.

2. Web performance

Very few agency reps I’ve spoken with are monitoring Web analytics. As PR becomes increasingly digital, it is imperative that we track which earned media placements are driving traffic, as well as which ones aren’t, so we know which media outlets to focus on.

How to do this: Chances are your clients are already doing this. If you think it’ll be difficult to get access to their website analytics, you may be surprised. You might also be surprised to learn that they are using tools in addition to Google Analytics that can help you sift through the Web data more easily, and are all too happy to teach you how to use those tools. If they aren’t using Google Analytics or other digital analytics tools, be the hero and help them get this set up.

3. Efficiency

All results are not created equal, and neither are the efforts to obtain the results. Ask President Cheese about that. If your team is overservicing to the hilt to get a handful of results for a single campaign, you must ask yourself some hard questions: Was the outcome reasonable in relation to the effort? Which types of campaigns give you the highest return on your effort? Who on your team is the real media bulldog?

Why measure efficiency? Because it can drive strategy. It sets benchmarks so you can set appropriate goals and expectations. It shows you where to put your effort and where to back off. That can save you time and money.

Marketers do this with every tactic they employ, it’s called a conversion rate. PR teams should adopt something similar.

How to do this: Before you dive into any new campaign, set goals. Then when the campaign is finished, take a look at the total effort that went into getting whatever results you achieved. As you do this with more and more campaigns, you’ll start to see patterns. Certain types of campaigns will give you a bigger success rate than others. You’ll notice, too, that you can set goals based on past performance of similar campaigns.

4. Leads and conversions

Gone are the days when PR teams could lean back on just providing “reputation management” alone. In most cases, if the PR program isn’t helping to drive revenue, then it’s on the chopping block. PR teams must get a handle on how their results drive leads and conversions.

How to do this:
As with Web analytics, this is information you’ll have to ask for. Most marketing organizations can tell you where leads are generated, and then just as easily tell you which of those leads convert to customers. If your clients or marketing counterparts aren’t using tools to provide this info, then you have some options.

Once again, you could be the hero and recommend tools that will provide this data. But we know that these kinds of platforms take a serious time, money, and resource investment. Sometimes it’s not feasible.

If that’s the case, another option is to determine with the client how to measure new business. For instance, a new restaurant opening might count as conversions the number of reservations following a local TV spot. A nonprofit could count the number of net new donors following a write-up. Tap into what the client is already doing to count “wins,” and come up with a way to measure PR’s contribution to that success.

It may be a while before PR catches up to our measurement-savvy marketing counterparts. But coming to terms on industry standards could help us get there faster.

How do you measure PR success?

Aly Saxe is founder and CEO of Iris PR Management (@IrisPRMgt), a cloud-based software that helps PR agencies and in-house teams manage and measure their performance.

Topics: PR

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