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A short guide for marketers on measuring the value of PR

Proving the value of PR has long been a challenge for marketers. Part of the problem is that there isn’t a standardised way of doing it. You get some agencies that are still reporting on AVE (advertising value equivalent – a very dated way of measuring PR ‘value’ by comparing it to the equivalent advertising cost, for those that don’t know), and some that are on the other end of the scale and using AI to measure sentiment and brand mentions.  Making measurement trickier is the fact that brand awareness – something many clients want to measure PR campaigns against – is pretty difficult to measure accurately, even with investment into measurement tools such as benchmarking surveys.

That being said, with PR and marketing campaigns differing so much, it’s fair to say that a standardised measurement method wouldn’t work. So, how do marketers prove the value of their PR spend? In this blog, we lay out some of the core things brands and business’ need to consider when measuring their PR.

A three-pronged approach to measurement

When putting success metrics on a PR campaign, we tend to look at the following three things in this order: a client’s business objectives, its PR campaign objectives and then how we can ensure we meet these through our tactical KPIs.

A client’s business objectives have to come first. There’s no point measuring engagement on a social post, views of a video, or the number of backlinks generated for a media placement – just as a few examples – if none of these align with the organisational objectives.  So, the first thing we ask clients on engagement is what their business objectives are. As an example, a business objective for a tech services provider might be ‘Diversify into the education market and ensure xx% of revenue comes from this sector in the next three years.’

Next, we know that the PR objective must feed into this overarching objective, but not be exactly the same, as other departments aside from PR/comms would also have a part to play in achieving the business objective. So, we need to set a PR-specific objective that feeds into this. It’s worth mentioning here that while as a PR agency we could happily help with the first half of the client’s business objective (diversifying into the education market by generating them leads), we (or any honest PR agency) would never promise to deliver a set amount of increased revenue; while PR should feed into sales, it’s a completely separate function. As we often say in our agency, we can take the horse to water, but we can’t make it drink.  With this in mind, this business objective funnelled down to a PR objective might be: ‘Generate 100 marketing-qualified leads with buyers in the education sector through the PR campaign.’

The KPIs we set to achieve this would then make up the third and final strand of the approach. For every PR objective set, we’d usually set a couple of tangible KPIs in order to achieve this, which, for this objective, could be ‘Generate 100+ form fill submissions via a piece of targeted content’ or ‘Devise and facilitate a webinar with at least 100 sign ups from people working within the education sector’ – the idea being that the client can then follow up with those people that attended the webinar, with a softer sales approach.

Setting measurable metrics

You’ll notice that the KPIs we have given above as examples are tangible and link directly into the PR objective. If you’re a marketer that has come to this blog looking for ways you could measure you PR efforts, below are some examples of tangible measurement metrics you could consider putting in place:

  • Traffic to a campaign landing page, plus increases in organic, direct and referral traffic
  • Downloads of a particular asset a PR company has devised for a campaign
  • Click throughs from specific tracker links set up on PR content
  • Online engagement with a piece of content (worth mentioning here that it’s not always quantity of engagements we’re looking for here – it’s more often than not, quality)
  • Share of voice against competitors
  • Coverage sentiment and key message dissemination
  • Face to face leads that a campaign has generated (e.g., by getting key audiences on a roundtable)

When ‘softer’ metrics can be useful

We’d rather set tangible objectives like the above; however, we do understand that for whatever reason, some clients need to see some of the metrics we might view as ‘fluffy’. For example, reporting solely on the ‘reach’ of coverage isn’t really helpful as a standalone KPI, yet it is important to some clients, so we must respect that. The relationship between a PR agency and a client needs to be two way, and that’s impossible if a PR agency is refusing to report on a certain metric simply because they don’t think it’s correct. Ultimately, this just makes a client’s job ten times more difficult.

There might also be ‘softer’ metrics you want to evaluate your PR relationship on. Just one example of this from personal experience is one large client that relies on us to regularly come up with creative ideas and new ways of doing things for them. By nature, this isn’t as measurable as some of the things we list above, it’s more of a ‘feeling’, yet this doesn’t make it any less important.

Regardless of which measurement indicators are selected, PR measurement should be a conversation from the outset, not something that comes in weeks into your engagement with a PR agency. The most successful campaigns set tangible KPIs from the outset and track them throughout the campaign, to keep it on track and aligned with both business and PR objectives.

You can read more about our measurement and evaluation process here.

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