Evaluating public relations success is not a mix of typical marketing metrics. After all, PR, marketing, and advertising are tightly related but not the whole thing. Measuring the success of a well-placed press release is not as easy as calculating how many people clicked on the ad banners.
Understanding these indicators will not only help you evaluate success but will give you insights into how you should improve your PR strategy, for the best business growth results.
All activities of PR are not only focused on growing brand awareness, but also on establishing a brand reputation. This is difficult to directly estimate, given that awareness and authority require a long-term focus.
So what’s the best way to evaluate campaigns in the world of PR and communications? Before we dive into the measurement metrics, let’s first answer: Do we need it?
Why Tracking PR Metrics Is Crucial
Before we get into the appropriate metrics, let’s first discover the two big reasons why you should carry out the PR measurement part of your must-have list.
- to present efforts to clients and supervisors;
- to improve future PR campaigns.
Reason No. 1: To present efforts to clients and supervisors
KPI performance is an important responsibility for PR managers reporting back to their clients and management of the company. Many clients and owners insist on the importance of ROI. With this in mind, it’s hard to avoid presenting hard analytics to them before and after shelling out money on earned media campaigns.
And although it’s extremely complicated to directly correlate sales data (even with expensive measurement tools) to a PR campaign, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of performing a campaign’s success.
Reason No. 2: To improve future PR campaigns
In the world of public relations and communications, its evaluation can be difficult, but a lack of information means you never really know what it has brought to your brand.
If you’re spending many hours searching for journalists, creating the list of story ideas, sending out pitches, and conducting follow-ups, don’t you want to be sure you’re doing everything right?
Choosing the right metrics for the PR campaigns you’re working on will help you to understand if your strategy needs changes or on the contrary renewal.
How to Measure PR Success
Before starting any new campaign, it’s important to set goals and measurable objectives. This will help you to choose the best PR indicators for measuring success and refining your approach. You have to decide, what results of PR campaigns you’ll be satisfied with. For example, the goal of launching a new tech startup is going to be vastly different from the way a big business might evaluate a crisis management campaign started after the brand’s owners were involved in a scandal.
Some objectives you determine for campaigns may never be measurable, while others may be possible and not so complicated to set and monitor.
Keeping this in mind, let me give some of the traditional and new measurement methods to evaluate the success of PR across digital channels, like digital media mentions, the reach of the articles about you, etc. Even though, PR impact is not directly quantifiable, but there are different ways you can use to measure the impact of public relations and particular PR campaigns.
Approaches to measuring the PR success:
- Number of publications
- PR Value
- Overall coverage or reach of a specific publication
- Media impressions
- Depending on the tasks for the PR team
- PR Points
Number of publications
This metrics is one of the easiest to track. You can measure a PR campaign’s impact by looking at the number of press clippings about your company or product. Getting huge coverage in well-known and credible media publications will easily widen your company’s reach to a broader audience. Media with a massive reach will give your company more awareness among its readers. However, it can be tempting to publish posts about you on every media platform that can’t resist publishing new content. It’s recommendable to do that on websites whose readers could have a high interest in your particular product.
You may have heard or even used a more traditional metric called PR value—also called AVE. This way of measuring PR success is calculated by multiplying advertising rates by the page percentage your post covers.
To calculate this metric, you should deduct the advertising rates from a publication’s media kit (likely available on their website). So for example, if the media in which your press release or article appeared charges $3,000 for publishing it, your story has a value of $3,000.
However, this traditional metric of success is often debated and not effective sometimes—at least among the opinions of most PR managers who understand that PR and marketing or advertising are not the same. Therefore, they are too fundamentally different to try to evaluate them with the same method.
In fact, back in 2010, some industry professionals came together in Barcelona to discuss the dismissal of using AVE. They elaborated what’s called the Barcelona Principles, which is now largely considered a universal standard in the industry when it comes to PR metrics.
This document has since been updated in 2015 and again in 2020, and the Barcelona Principles describes general guidelines PR experts should follow when measuring the success of their PR activities. This includes “AVEs are not the value of communications” and “social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels.”
Overall coverage or coverage of a specific publication
Public relations activities with no audience are a waste of time for your brand. Prize-worthy press releases are senseless if no one reads them. It’s also a shame to invest in your PR to only be seen and heard by your own employees.
As a result, the reach of individual posts is an important PR metric to track. In addition, this is something that is very easy to find out, because most of these media publications that are posting your story are also selling advertisements. Because of that, they’re very good at monitoring who reads their publications, who watches their videos, who tunes into their radio station, and who follows the links to their website. All that data is available, and if you work backward you can see how many people and what audience did your message reach on this particular story. After that, it’s easy to sum it up for all of those media hits in a month.
You’ll be able to estimate the potential impact of coverage by tracking reach when your company is highlighted or discussed. It will also help public relations teams decide which media outlets to choose and evaluate their output.
Calculating your PR success this way can be as simple as calculating the possible viewers of a newspaper or the audience of a radio broadcast. You can make a better estimation for your company if you use media monitoring tools to assess these variables. Finally, it’s much easier to decide and choose where you wish to invest your time and money.
A media impression is a calculation used to evaluate the number of people who have heard about your company within a given time period. It can be a useful metric in calculating the impact of a public relations strategy.
To estimate your media impressions, multiply the number of press clips gathered during the timeframe by the circulation of each post.
If your story was published in The Times, which has around 39 million visits per month in its digital publications, then you would estimate 39 million media impressions. Mix that with any other press clips to get your overall media impressions.
Certainly, media impressions aren’t guaranteed. Just because a media has a huge number of visits, it doesn’t mean that all those visitors read or saw your content. It also depends on if the post will appear on the first page or not. Media impressions might sound great to your clients, but they won’t necessarily help you reproduce or scale success in the long run.
Research is crucial to evaluating a PR campaign’s success. Before launching your PR campaign, survey your audience and markets to see if they’ve heard of your company and offerings. After starting your PR activities, survey your markets one more time to check whether awareness statistics are trending up.
Depending on the tasks for the PR team
In other words, it can be called the KPI of the team. Let’s say the task is to place content on a given number of media resources, to get to the first page of a certain publication, collaborate with a particular influencer or celebrity, and many other different tasks.
And the last, but certainly not the least is our favorite, the so-called PR points approach. This method is rather new, but PRNEWS.IO votes in its favor.
This technique consists of collecting points for a particular PR activity. This metric is calculated individually for each company, PR campaign, or PR manager.
In this formula, you may put all parameters which are important for you. For example, it may look like this:
DR – DR from Ahrefs (significance assessment in Ahrefs),
M, Q, I – media quality index, which is calculated by many individual criteria (maybe less than 3 or more),
N – novelty (if your articles have been published in the media before).
Now let’s dig deeper with some examples and detailed explanations. The principle of this approach is based on that you take into account the significance assessment of the media outlet, the individual quality factors of the output there, and the fact if this media outlet published your article for the first time or not (this index is optional).
Let’s start with the first index (DR). The quality and credibility are crucial for the articles’ success and further results for the brand as a whole, so it’s important to find and include a way of calculation an assessment of the significance of the media. We, here in PRNEWS.IO, decided to take data from the independent, but available for everybody source – Ahrefs. And the Ahrefs DR metric, an indicator that calculates the popularity of a source based on incoming links, citations, and its popularity, fits best for this.
The second step is multiplying the DR index by the new coefficient, which consists of the individual elements that are important for your PR campaign. Here, depending on the goals, you should include those indicators that need to be achieved.
For example, one of the important indicators of the article placement is the initiator of the placement on the media outlet. Hence, outreach can be assigned a coefficient of 1.5, and paid placement is less valuable, so we assigned a coefficient of 1.
The next important criterion may be the visibility of the article. For example, if it’s impossible to find an article without a direct link because the menu section in which the article was posted is hidden and can’t be seen from the main page of the site, we put a coefficient of 0.2. Either the media platform is of low quality and again it’s very difficult to find the article you need among thousands of other articles, ads, and links there.
Next, it’s better to take into account the degree of the company’s involvement in the article: if this article is fully dedicated to the company or its product (it has the biggest coefficient), or there was just a mention, or comment, or without mention at all, but includes a link to your website.
In addition, you may put a coefficient, that reflects negative or positive feedback. It also can be an indicator in evaluating PR success.
The number of likes, retweets, and shares can be a part of the indicator after the campaign on social media channels as well. This is also important and can mean the relevance of the topic and the quality of the article, which affects its popularity and increases the effectiveness of PR.
And the third element is important for us but could be not for all of you. We’re taking into consideration the novelty of the publication. If it is published for the first time there, then you can put the highest coefficient – 1, and if it was repeated – 0.5.
Evaluating the success of a PR campaign isn’t a straightforward approach. Whilst there are many activities involved within public relations, alongside many ways to estimate PR success, it’s crucial to stay focused on the overall business goals. Whether it’s enhancing brand awareness or creating leads and conversions, digital PR goals and aims should be aligned with the general business strategy.
With these tips, you can easily evaluate if your PR initiatives were successful and helped your brand. What PR metrics do you use in your practice? Please, share your experience with us.