Custom Made: Measuring the Value of Public Relations

There’s always a lot of debate about public relations (PR) measurement.  While we give credit to our peers for trying to standardize and define it, codifying it is a waste of time.  It’s not realistic.  Measuring PR success is something unique to a business.  What might work for one company won’t necessarily work for another.

So what’s the golden ticket?  It all comes down to defining your bottom-line business objectives and aligning PR goals and metrics with them.  From there, the possibilities for measurement (both quantitative and qualitative) are wide open – and very much unique to a business.

  • Understand the End Goal: This is the most important rule for measurement.  If you don’t create success metrics that tie back to your high-level business objectives, you are destined for failure.  So what’s your company’s high-level business goal?  To get acquired?  Gain VC funding?  Knowing this, a focused PR program can generate the unique results needed to get there.
  • Talk to the Sales and IT Guys: Driving sales is a universal objective for most companies, and PR should be in constant contact with the sales teams.  They hold a wealth of knowledge about how PR efforts reach customers and prospects.  With IT, make sure you have regular communications with the team to track Web-site traffic and determine what outlets visitors are coming from on days that announcements or major news are released.
  • Track Thought Leadership through Third Parties: No matter your industry, obtaining thought leadership is invaluable.  While there are plenty of great metrics to achieve in terms of bylined article placements, award wins and speaking slots, there is a more accurate way to measure thought leadership:  a media or analyst audit.  Track how your company’s perception has shifted since the start of the PR program.  Do influencers consider your company to be innovative?  Is there an evangelist that is resonating with them?  Having third-party testaments to your growing prestige is a creative way of proving the value of PR.
  • Setting Metrics for Traditional and New Media: It’s important to define metrics for both traditional and online/social-media outlets.  While metrics for print media can be straightforward (number of article appearances, sentiment, article tone, advertising vs. editorial worth, etc.), think creatively about how best to measure PR impact with other outlets:
    • Chart SEO rankings
    • Measure followers on LinkedIn groups, Twitter, etc.
    • Track (shortened URL) clicks
    • Count the amount of blog responses/topics posted
  • Conducting Formal Measurement Often: Business is constantly evolving and what worked three months ago might not work today.  Ensure that you’re conducting measurement meetings every three to six months.  If the programs are not working, it gives you a deadline to try new strategies and tactics that will be more effective.

There are a million different factors for success and the only way to properly measure PR is to work collaboratively with your communications team to define and execute metrics.  Be flexible, creative, and forward-thinking.  As long as your metrics tie back to your bottom-line business objectives, PR’s value can be obvious.

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