This post was updated on June 10th, for a brand new PR measurement methodology.
Do you measure the results of your PR campaigns? If yes, then congrats, you’re one of the few! According to Buffer, 82% of marketers have no way to evaluate the ROI of their PR campaign. This article will help you determine how to measure the results of a PR campaign.
It will answer both basic and more advanced questions – starting with why you should measure the results of a PR campaign and ending with which PR measurement metrics should you follow and why.
“Does PR work?” – that’s probably a question you had to answer at least once.
The question is justified – before any company invest in a PR campaign, they have to estimate a ROI.
Back in the day, it was hard to precisely assess the results of a traditional PR campaign.
The rise of social media platforms and online advertising revolutionised PR campaigns measurements.
Digital marketing helps spread brand awareness and increase the reach of your PR messages. But the digitalisation brought new challenges PR specialists have to cope with – how should they measure the results of their PR campaign? Which metrics should they follow to get actionable insights?
When there’s a will there’s a way!
Measuring your PR campaign can be tricky, but it is not impossible.
Armed with the PR measurement knowledge, you will be able to:
- assess the results of your PR activities,
- improve your PR campaigns,
- present the results of your activities to your supervisors
- and much more!
Here’s what I’ll cover in this blog post:
PR measurement before the digital age
How did PR measurement look like before the digital age?
At first glance, measuring the effects of your PR campaign was straightforward – once an article, ad, or press release was published, all you had to do was to take into account the newspapers’ circulation data. You could estimate how many people have seen your post.
This PR measurement is called AVE – Advertising Value Equivalents. The AVEs were established in the 1940s and haven’t changed much since.
Do you spot the flaw in this method?
PR measurement was always just an estimate. Not a very accurate one, to be honest.
You never really knew what impact the PR campaign could have had, nor could you get the most actionable insights from these numbers.
PR specialists needed more precise methods of measuring their activities.
That’s why PR specialists developed a more accurate methods of measuring the effects of PR campaigns.
To answer the new challenges, stakeholders in PR measurement developed a framework called The Barcelona Principles of PR Measurement.
The 2015 version of the Principles of PR Measurement lists 7 key points:
- Setting a SMART goal is a fundamental part of every PR campaign.
- It’s better to measure the outcomes than just the outputs of communication (I’ll explain the difference in the next paragraph).
- The effects of your activities should be measured whenever possible.
- It’s important to use both quantitative and qualitative methods in the evaluation of PR effectiveness.
- It’s time to forget about AVEs. Instead, you should use advertising rates, the quality of coverage, or estimated social media reach.
- Measure your social media KPIs regularly and consistently.
- The process of measurement and evaluation should be transparent, consistent, and valid.
Measuring PR campaign
When it comes to measuring the results of a PR campaign, there are three types of results you should take into account. All of them are important, and every one is an indicator of a different PR campaign KPI.
PR campaign outputs take into account the work your company put into the campaign. Think about the number of social media posts you published per week, press releases sent, conferences attended, etc.
Outtake is all about the result of a PR campaign.
How do the consumers feel about your brand after a PR campaign? Is your brand associated with innovation, fun or is it the most trustworthy brand in your business niche?
An example of an outtake is a bounce rate, which you can find in Google Analytics.
PR campaign outtakes are all about feelings; PR campaign outcomes are about your consumers’ behaviour.
What actions did your audience take after your campaign? Did they attend an event? Started a new diet? Register for a trial account after reading your article?
PR measurement now
The world has changed enormously since the time of AVEs.
We now live in a digital age and need other KPIs for PR measurement. The role of the PR changed as well.
Nowadays, we need to focus on what is being said about your brand. Brand reputation can be a deciding factor when it comes to impacting your bottom line.
But the focus of public relations department should be much broader than just passively monitoring what is being said about your brand. As a PR professional, you should also influence the behaviour and opinion of your desired audience.
PR measurement process is fairly simple. Start with identifying your goals. Once a PR campaign is over, check whether the goals translated into business results. That will make PR measurement a lot easier.
Measuring the results of your PR campaign will also help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your campaigns and improve them in the future.
Why measure the results of your PR campaign?
Before we delve into the nitty gritty of PR campaign measurement, we have to answer one fundamental question – why should we keep a close track of the outcomes of your PR campaign?
There are many reasons you should measure the results of your PR campaigns, let’s name just a few!
One of the most important rules for every analyst states: you can’t improve any action, if you don’t measure the results.
Measurement of a PR campaign will reveal what’s working and what’s not. You can adjust your campaign, so it will bring the desired results.
No matter how hard you try, there will always be a part of your campaign you could improve. Measuring the results of a PR campaign will help you identify the weak spots and will prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.
Moreover, measuring and reporting the results of your PR campaign will help you justify your PR spending to your supervisors.
Considering how expensive a well-executed PR campaign could be, justifying the spending is one of the crucial parts of your job.
Benefits of PR measurement
Why should you invest time and resources into PR measurement? The benefits are hard to miss!
There are multiple reasons why you need to measure your PR efforts:
- to prove the value of your work to your superiors. PR can help you reach your business objectives, but you have to demonstrate the benefits of your work
- Measuring various PR campaigns will help you identify strengths and weaknesses of your actions. That way you could improve your next campaigns
- Constant monitoring of your brand will help you defend during the crisis. If you want to know more, take a look at our article about crisis management.
How to measure a PR campaign?
We made sure we are all on the same page, now it’s time to dive into the world of PR campaigns measurement!
The more advanced metrics, for example, sentiment analysis or Twitter reach, are based on results from Brand24, a media monitoring tool.
How does Brand24 work?
First, you have to set up a project and choose the terms you’d like to monitor. Once you’ve chosen the keywords (think about company hashtags, campaign specific hashtags, or terms related to the industry you’re interested in), the tool will gather and analyse all publicly available mentions.
The first step to a successful PR campaign is planning.
Without clearly defined, measurable goals, you won’t be able to assess your PR campaign – you will never know whether it was a success or a disaster.
Once you know what you want to achieve, you could prepare a PR strategy to achieve your goals.
Do you want to raise brand awareness? Spark interest in new products? Make your audience undertake a specific action?
Before you start your PR campaign, invest your time in setting your goals.
Remember to set up all the tools you’re going to use in advance, even if that’s just an Excel spreadsheet.
First of all, you will minimise the risk of failure. Imagine coming up with a great PR campaign that won’t be measured because the tool wasn’t working. Ouch.
The second thing you have to take into account is that not all tools provide historical data. In fact, when it comes to media monitoring tools, almost none offer historical data, at least, not at a reasonable price.
From my experience, it’s better to have everything tested before the start of a campaign. The “better safe than sorry” rule applies to measuring PR campaigns as well.
Important metrics in PR measurement
Once you know what the goal of your PR campaign is, it’s time to finally take a closer look at the PR campaign metrics.
In the world that produces astounding amount of data daily, it’s hard to choose the right PR metrics to follow – information that will provide you actionable insights into your PR campaign.
Beware of the lure of vanity metrics – numbers that look great in an Excel spreadsheet but won’t bring any value to your PR campaign.
So, which metrics should you pay special attention to?
1. Brand mentions
Let’s start with the basics.
Brand mentions, or the volume of mentions, indicate how many times the name of your company, your hashtag, or any other word you monitor while running a PR campaign, has been mentioned online within a given timeframe.
If the main goal of your PR campaign is to raise awareness, keep an eye on the volume of mentions.
The spikes will indicate that your audience is talking about your product or action.
The outtakes of a PR campaign are all about the feelings your audience has toward your message.
In the past, you could only guess how people feel about certain products, services, or messages.
For example, if someone left your website quickly, it probably meant he wasn’t interested in the content. A high bounce rate could have indicated a misfired content that wasn’t answering your audience needs.
Today, we have much more accurate ways of determining the sentiment around your brand.
The language people use while discussing a certain topic online is analysed. Based on the analyses of the words and emojis used in the post, a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment is assigned to the post.
A high volume of mentions and positive sentiment is a sign of success. It not only means people are spreading the news about you, it also means they are happy about your message or activity.
When the negative sentiment prevails, it’s an indicator of a crisis in the making. You should react accordingly by implementing changes into your PR campaign and addressing the controversial issues.
Negative talk is not the worse that could happen to your social media campaign.
The worst thing that could happen is not sparking any type of conversation at all.
Your blog post, email outreach campaign, newsletter, event wasn’t interesting enough for people to talk about it. That could hurt your reputation as a PR strategist more than a campaign with a negative outcome.
Which PR metric should you track to measure the engagement around your PR content?
If you’re active on social media channels, examine the number of likes, comments, and shares under your social media posts.
The higher engagement rates under your post, the more visible the post will be on social media channels.
You can encourage people to leave comments, use dedicated hashtags, or simply like your post.
But the most reliable way to build an engaged community around your brand is to provide the right content to the right people regularly.
4. Social media reach
Once you know what type of content sparks engagement and you deliver it regularly, it’s time to measure how many people could have seen your posts.
Which PR metric helps you determine that number?
Social media reach!
Social media reach takes into account who has shared your posts on Twitter and their number of followers. Based on these two metrics, a media monitoring tool will calculate an estimated social media reach.
When it comes to PR outcomes, where you want to influence people to undertake certain actions, social media reach is your starting point.
Before you get a chance to influence someone’s behaviour, your need to reach them with your message.
A high social media reach is the first step to a successful PR campaign.
5. The share of voice
PR campaigns are all about hitting the right people with the right message at the right time.
In an ideal world, you would achieve all of this before your competitors.
Calculating the share of voice for your brand is relatively easy. All you have to do is divide your volume of metrics by the volume of metrics of your competitors.
Armed with that information, you could analyse the online talk in more detailed way.
You can spot the most prominent platforms right away and work with them to promote your business or product even more.
The share of voice will help you determine your brand awareness and will provide you with a ton of information about your audience, such as the engagement levels or the social platforms they like the most.
6. Website traffic
Even though more and more PR campaigns take place on different social media channels, your website is still an important platform for PR outreach.
Log in to Google Analytics and take a closer look at your website traffic analytics.
Are there any spikes in the number of leads that reacted to your call to action from your website?
When analysing your website performance, take a closer look at qualified leads and referrals.
Qualified leads are people who looked you up in search engines, and, from there, found your website.
A referral heard about you from someone else and they are interested in your product, service, or message.
You have to know where your potential buyers come from. The easiest way to track the user path in Google Analytics is to use trackable links – for example Google Analytics Link Builder.
Another interesting metric you’ll find in Google Analytics is the bounce rate. The bounce rate tells you how many people have left your website after viewing just one site.
A high bounce rate is an indicator of bad outtakes of your PR campaign. Your audience might not be happy with the content of your website.
7. E-mail metrics
PR campaigns are not only focused on spreading the message to the wide audience. Sometimes you have to reach a precisely targeted audience.
That’s where an e-mail database comes to the rescue!
You’ve probably spend some time and a lot of effort on building the perfect e-mail list.
Now, you have to check the metrics connected to your PR e-mail database!
How many e-mail with your message were open? How many responses did you receive? Can you track how many times your email has been forwarded?
To properly assess the results of your PR campaign, you have to take into account these metrics.
PR measurement tools
To successfully measure your PR campaign, you need the right set of tools.
I mentioned Brand24 before, but to give you a better overview of all the PR tools, take a look at this section. Hopefully, it will give you the data you need to make the most insightful decision.
Brandwatch is a media monitoring tool that will give you all the insights you need to make informed decisions. It applies deep learning algorithms to analyse the data gathered online. Unfortunately, the PR tool doesn’t reveal its pricing, but the cheapest plan starts at around $800.
SEMrush is a SEO tool but you can use to measure your PR campaign. SEMrush will help you see the keywords your websites are ranking. The tool will also help you assess your performance compared to your main competitors.
Competitor analysis will help you identify your strong and pain points and position yourself as an industry expert.
Do you know anyone who doesn’t know Google Analytics? It’s an absolute must-have for anyone working in marketing and PR.
Google Analytics will give you all the information you need about the traffic to your website. The PR measurement tool will tell where your audience comes from, what is their gender, and what devices do they use.
Moreover, the tool allows to build custom reports that will suit your needs perfectly.
The best news? It’s free!
PR measurement in a nutshell
I hope by now you get a solid grasp on the importance of measuring the results of your PR campaigns.
Without proper PR measurement in place you won’t be able to assess the results of your work and provide even better services to your clients.
What are the most important takeaways?
- Set up your goal clearly before you start the campaign.
- Take a closer look at social media platforms – whether you like it or not, that’s where the majority of life happens now.
- Have a crisis management plan in action. A PR crisis will hit you, but you can turn the tables around and benefit from it.
- Watch your competitors. Conducting competitor analysis will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.
- Don’t forget about your website traffic. Analyse the results from Google Analytics regularly.
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