Better measurement will prove PR’s value to top leaders and help practitioners gain funding, influence and a voice in high-level decisions.
Beyond that, the PR profession faces growing pressure to prove how its activities contribute to an organization’s sales funnel and bottom line.
Here are five practical solutions to the PR measurement challenge:
1. Discard—or limit—vanity metrics.
Some in the industry say vanity metrics pose the largest obstacle to high-quality PR measurement; other PR executives say vanity metrics can help, at least somewhat.
“While there is still value in measuring awareness of and engagement with your brand through the number of likes, comments, retweets, replies and shares, the real payoff is measuring how these likes and shares turn into sales,” Kate O’Sullivan, owner ADPR, asserts in a blog post.
Vanity metrics are easy to obtain and tend to correlate with email subscriptions and free trials, says Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of Moz. They can help digital PR pros understand what types of content resonate with audiences and serve as a proxy for more meaningful metrics. Still, you should periodically compare actionable metrics—such as conversions and revenue—against those vanity metrics to gauge their relative impact on corporate goals.
2. Cut through data clutter.
Vast amounts of data can overwhelm PR pros struggling to analyze numbers, track metrics and report findings. Decide what matters to your business, and identify metrics that support those goals. Beware of obsessing about metrics that bear no connection to business objectives.
View metrics through a single dashboard that includes news, social media and website analytics rather than trying to track metrics through different sources. An integrated dashboard of results saves time, provides real-time access, and displays a comprehensive view of performance.
Services that include trained human analysts in addition to automated software analysis can provide more accurate judgments and uncover actionable insights hiding within the content and data.
3. Choose appropriate metrics.
Although ideal metrics vary by organization, PR metrics can often include website referrals, mentions, message resonance and share of voice. Article quality scores can grade the efficacy of media mentions based on the status and relevance of the publication, the prominence of the mention and other factors.
Define your goals first; then compare progress against benchmarks, determine what matters most to top executives, and report only want matters.
4. Focus on sentiment.
By tracking changes to brand sentiment over time, PR pros can show the value of their work. Automated sentiment analysis of social media mentions offers the benefits of faster turnaround and potentially lower costs, but the accuracy of the automated analysis often falls short of levels needed to produce valid results, insights and decisions.
One solution is to combine automated sentiment analysis with selective reviews by trained human analysts or to rely solely on human analysis for smaller numbers of media mentions.
5. Find advanced PR measurement tools.
Media monitoring and measurement tools have improved tremendously in recent years. Media measurement dashboards can now integrate data from all sources. In addition, some vendors can customize their standard package to clients’ specific wants and needs.
“Monitoring your brand’s coverage across all media channels is integral to evaluating the success of a PR campaign,” O’Sullivan says. “Ultimately, measuring the effectiveness of PR activity depends on having solid PR objectives and KPIs agreed to by all stakeholders at the beginning of the campaign.”
A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.