Evaluating public relations success goes beyond the typical marketing metrics. After all, while PR, marketing, and advertising are tightly related, they don’t make up the whole picture. 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 also give you insights into how you should improve your PR strategy for the best business growth results.
PR activities should focus on establishing a brand reputation in addition to growing brand awareness. This isn’t easy to estimate directly, given that awareness and authority require a long-term outlook.
So what’s the best way to evaluate campaigns in the world of PR and communications? Before we dive into the measurement metrics, first let’s answer the question: Do we need them?
Why Tracking PR Metrics Is Crucial
Before we get into the appropriate metrics, let’s cover the two main reasons PR measurement should be on your must-have list.
- To present your efforts to clients and supervisors
- To improve future PR campaigns
Presenting your efforts to clients and supervisors
KPIs are an important responsibility for PR managers reporting back to their clients and management. Many clients and owners emphasize the importance of ROI. With this in mind, it’s essential to present them with hard analytics both before and after shelling out money on media campaigns.
And although it’s extremely complicated to directly correlate sales data with a PR campaign (even with expensive measurement tools), that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of measuring a campaign’s success.
Improving future PR campaigns
In the world of public relations and communications, PR 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 a 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 your PR campaigns will help you to understand whether your strategy needs modifying or perhaps complete 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 kinds of results you’ll be satisfied with. For example, the goals for launching a new tech startup are going to be vastly different from those of a big business’s crisis management campaign following a company scandal.
Some of the objectives you determine for campaigns may never be measurable, while others may be relatively easy to set and monitor.
Keeping this in mind, I will explain some of the new and traditional measurement methods used to evaluate the success of PR across digital channels, such as digital media mentions or the reach of the articles about your business. Even though PR impact is not directly quantifiable, there are different ways you can measure the impact of public relations and individual PR campaigns.
Approaches to measuring PR success include:
- Number of publications
- PR value
- Overall coverage or reach of a specific publication
- Media impressions
- Depending on the tasks of the PR team
- PR points
Number of publications
This metric 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 extend your company’s reach to a broader audience. Media outlets with a massive reach will generate more awareness of your company among their readers. However, it can be tempting to publish posts on any media platform that churns out new content. It’s recommended to limit your outreach to websites whose readers are likely to have a high interest in your particular product.
You may have heard of or even used a more traditional metric called PR value (also known as Advertising Value Equivalency, or AVE). This method 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 outlet 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 always effective—at least among the opinions of most PR managers who understand that PR is not the same as marketing or advertising. Therefore, they are too fundamentally different to evaluate with the same method.
In fact, back in 2010, some industry professionals came together in Barcelona to discuss the discontinuation of AVE. They established the Barcelona Principles at that time, which is now largely considered a universal standard in the industry when it comes to PR metrics.
Updated in 2015 and again in 2020, the Barcelona Principles describes general guidelines PR experts should follow when measuring the success of their PR activities. Notable statements include “AVEs are not the value of communications,” and “Social media can and should be measured consistently with other media channels.”
Overall coverage or reach of a specific publication
Public relations activities with no audience waste your brand’s time. Prize-worthy press releases are senseless if no one reads them. It would be 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 the media outlets 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 in to 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 kind of audience your message reached with a 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.
Measuring your PR success this way can be as simple as calculating the number of 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. With this information, it will be much easier to 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 a designated time frame by the circulation of each post.
For example, if your story was published in The Times, whose digital publications attract around 39 million visits per month, then you would estimate 39 million media impressions. Combine that with any other press clips to get your overall media impressions.
Certainly, media impressions aren’t guaranteed. Just because a media outlet has a huge number of visits, it doesn’t mean all those visitors saw or read your content. A lot also depends on whether or not your post will appear on the first page. 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 of the PR team
This can also be called the KPI of the team. Let’s say the task is to place content on a given number of media resources, get to the first page of a certain publication, or collaborate with a particular influencer or celebrity.
And last but certainly not 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 incorporate all parameters that are important to you. For example, it may look like this:
DR is DR from Ahrefs (significance assessment in Ahrefs)
MQI is media quality index, which is calculated by many individual criteria (maybe less than 3 or more)
N is novelty (if your articles have been published by the media outlet before)
Now let’s dig deeper with some examples and detailed explanations. The principle of this approach is based on taking into account the significance assessment of the media outlet, the individual quality factors of the output there, and whether or not this media outlet is publishing your article for the first time (this index is optional).
Let’s start with the first index (DR). The quality and credibility are crucial for the article’s success and further results for the brand as a whole, so it’s important to find and include a way of calculating an assessment of the significance of the media outlet. Here at PRNEWS.IO, we decided to take data from Ahrefs, an independent but available-to-everyone source. And the Ahrefs DR metric, an indicator that calculates the popularity of a source based on incoming links, citations, and its visability, 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 article placement is the initiator of the placement on the media outlet. Hence, outreach can be assigned a coefficient of 1.5. Since paid placement is less valuable, we assigned a coefficient of 1.
The next important criterion is 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 can’t be seen from the site’s main page, we can assign a coefficient of 0.2. Either the media platform is of low quality, or it’s very difficult to find the article you need among thousands of other articles, ads, and links there.
Next, you should 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 If there was just a mention of or comment about the company, or no mention at all but a link to your website is included,
In addition, you may put a coefficient that reflects negative or positive feedback. This can also be an indicator in evaluating PR success.
The number of likes, retweets, and shares can be included following a campaign on social media channels as well. This is also important and can reflect the relevance of the topic and the quality of the article, which affects its popularity and increases the effectiveness of PR.
The third element is important for us, although it may not be relevant for all of you. We’re taking into consideration the novelty of the publication. If it was published for the first time in a particular source, then you can assign a coefficient of 1, and if it was repeated, 0.5.
Other PR Metrics
While marketing managers need to guarantee the return on their PR investment, measuring ROI is a challenge. The key to accurately and effectively measuring PR success depends on choosing the right metrics that align with the primary goal of your campaign performance. To identify the results of PR activities, the following methods have been developed:
Online reach and Opportunity To See
Online reach refers to the number of people who might have seen an article or campaign online.
Opportunity To See (OTS) mining is an indicator used in media planning; it allows you to estimate the total number of contacts in numerical terms, achieved as a result of a campaign in different cities or across different media, for example.
It is calculated as the total PR rating of the campaign, expressed in thousands of advertising contacts.
This is a great way to determine how many of your potential customers have seen your campaign.
We have already mentioned this method, but to reiterate, counting press clippings for print and online coverage is one of the simplest ways to measure the success of a PR campaign.
For example, perhaps you are a PR manager and have done a great job promoting the company and increasing brand awareness. You need to make a press clipping, which you will show to the boss or the customer, and if the opportunity arises, to partners, clients, and journalists. This is the so-called “case.” Moreover, focus on media with high penetration into your target audience.
In the age of digital technologies, it is impossible to limit yourself only to paper media. Having made an electronic press clipping, you can send it over the Internet or place it on a corporate website.
Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE)
Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is an indicator equivalent to the advertising cost of a publication. One of the most common ways to assess the effectiveness of PR in the media, it is calculated based on the official (declared) cost of advertising space in the media, excluding discounts, markups, and additional placement rules. It shows how much it would cost to post the material in the same place where it was published thanks to the efforts of the PR service. It is calculated by comparing the volume of publications and the tariffs of the respective media.
AVE was quite popular because press secretaries could show management a very specific result, expressed in monetary value. However, it soon became apparent that advertising rates, publication space, and airtime did not reflect the quality of media presence and had practically nothing to do with PR analysis. Therefore, organizations found the methodology questionable. A compromise option for assessing the effectiveness of AVE-based PR efforts is the PR value indicator (also known as Weighted Media Cost). It takes into account not only the cost but also the quality of the material. For this, indicators of tonality, speaker activity, the density of references, and the genre of the article are considered.
After the PR event, the number of responses to the event, changes in public opinion, and the target audience’s awareness of the product, service, or company as a whole are assessed. All this information is obtained by posting feedback forms on the site. And when customers buy your product or service, they leave a review so you know where they first heard about the product.
The only problem with this method is that customers may have first heard about the product in the press, but since then they may also come across it through other marketing channels, so you cannot attribute their product awareness to the press.
This refers to the tone of reaction to the campaign. For example, if you have 30 press clippings mentioning a brand, but 20 of them are negative, this is unwanted coverage and demonstrates that a change in campaign message is needed. The emphasis should be on a positive tone. You should follow the current pattern and change the overall strategy of the campaign, or maybe it is worth making a personnel change.
Be sure to also provide some kind of response to negative coverage. After all, it continues to hang around on the net. Therefore, it’s essential to carefully monitor your reputation.
The easiest way to assess the effectiveness of a PR campaign is analyzing financial indicators: dynamics of sales growth, profit growth, analysis of the percentage of attracted customers, and comparing the size of the average check.
If, during the launch of a PR campaign, all other marketing activities remain constant but sales growth is expected in the coming weeks, the campaign likely caused the increase.
Awareness is another very important goal of any PR campaign. What was the “return” from the publications? The number of calls, comments, and letters received from the target audience and journalists should be analyzed. Surveys, social media monitoring, and main website traffic can demonstrate how much brand awareness has increased since the start of the campaign. Today more than ever, the social media and blogosphere space can serve as a qualitative indicator of the level of public awareness. After all, analysis of the dynamics of mentions of your brand across social networks allows you to judge the effectiveness of PR support of the brand. Consider that for many people today, the opinion of a blogger is more important than their own.
To summarize, combining metrics is the best way to get a more complete picture of campaign results.
Content Marketing Platform
- 100,000+ media publications;
- get backlinks to your product;
- scale work with content distribution.
Strengths of PR measuring
- Allows you to prove to the authorities the value of your agency’s work
- Provides confirmation that certain business goals have been achieved
- Lets you monitor the popularity of your brand on the network
- Lets you monitor the increase in the number of references and improve the quality of references (e.g., transition from regional to central press, or access to the pages of leading business publications)
- Creates the opportunity for OTS and counting potential online customers
- Lets you define a workable PR strategy and divide the results of PR activity into short-term and long-term goals
- Enables you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your actions so you can improve your next campaigns
These are the impacts of deep analytics and high-quality public relations.
What are the recommended actions for companies in this regard? Determine which of these indicators will be counted and how. For some of them, measuring requires expensive research or the use of professional services. But you can take into account some of the metrics on your own; the main thing to keep in mind is that they should be used to track not only the efforts made, but also the actual result.
As mentioned, because there are no universal metrics for assessing the effectiveness of PR, we constantly communicate with colleagues in the market, study the market, discuss experiences, and share our vision for the development of marketing channels in general.
All this helps you stay current with the analysis tools you are using, discover new methods, and evaluate previous actions. Evaluation of effectiveness is also necessary to confirm the choice of certain instruments for your communication program.
Finally, do not forget to keep an eye on your competitors. We wish you the best of luck with your campaigns.
Online Publicity Workbook
- 100+ content ideas for your B2B startup;
- ideal for do-it-yourself publicity plans;
- schedule your PR campaign in advance.
Evaluating the success of a PR campaign isn’t a straightforward approach. While there are many activities involved within public relations, and many ways to estimate PR success, it’s crucial to stay focused on your 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.
At the same time, most companies evaluate the effectiveness of a PR channel in different ways. There is no universal approach. But remember that you cannot improve a single point of your performance if you do not measure the results.