Every field needs metrics; PR simply requires a distinct approach to its particular benchmarks.
First and foremost, you should set up benchmarks to provide context for those metrics and measure PR effectively. Benchmarks are essential to:
- Setting expectations
- Setting goals
- Optimizing performance
- Getting better results
You cannot know where you’re going until you know where you’re starting, and benchmarks identify those starting points. It’s not overly complex; you can keep your PR benchmarks simple.
Here’s an example: In 2010, we hired a marketing resident to help us expand our blog. We had zero idea what kind of growth to expect because we hadn’t tracked anything yet.
We set goals and got to work. This is what they looked like:
There are two things wrong with those benchmarks:
- They are all vanity metrics.
- Revenue isn’t mentioned.
They gave us a starting point, though, helping us to set goals for 75 days and get to work.
We didn’t overthink it; we simply looked at where we were in May 2010 and where we wanted to go—and we crushed most of them. After the 75 days, we looked at what we’d accomplished and then set significant goals (and factored in revenue).
How to set benchmarks
Two very important benchmarks you want to set up front are:
- Your website or blog’s domain authority
- Your Google rankings on key search terms
To find your domain authority, go to Open Site Explorer tool and enter your URL. It’s important to note that these rankings adjust slowly, updating once or twice per month. You are not going to see overnight results here, but it is crucial to benchmark where you are right now.
If you are going to set a goal for three months or less, set it from three to six points higher than it is right now. Then look at your Google rankings for your top 10 priority keywords.
For instance, we want to rank for “PR metrics” and a blog post I wrote recently has that keyword, though it’s not yet on the first page of results. However, two other blog posts are on that first page—in the fourth and fifth spots. My benchmark, then, for PR metrics is four and five, with a goal to increase those to one and two.
Setting benchmarks and understanding what it takes to attain them is essential to proving you can measure PR.
Ask yourself, what’s not working?
Now that you have your key benchmarks set, it’s time to look at what’s amiss. It’s important to look at our failures with as much pride and gusto as we do the wins. There is so much to learn.
Let’s say you tried hard to get featured in Product Hunt, but it didn’t happen. Ask yourself:
- Why didn’t it work?
- Is there a lesson that can apply to getting in The New York Times or your leading industry blog?
- Why didn’t you win any awards that you applied for last year? It’s (hopefully) not because your product sucks.
- Are your award applications written in a way that’s positioning you poorly against other applicants?
- Are you submitting for awards you’re not qualified for?
Look at all the ways you’ve failed to achieve your PR goals, and ask why. You do this in every other area of your business, so why are you not doing this in PR?
A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.