Measuring PR correctly

Four tips on getting the most from PR analytics.

Earned media is transforming. Take it from the journalists themselves. According to Cision’s recent 2019 State of the Media report, the number one concern to journalism in the last 12 months was that ‘social networks and influencers [were] bypassing traditional media.’

In order to accommodate the trend of competing sources of information, journalists are relying on more first-party data about audience behavior like clicks, view-time, and keywords to inform content development.

In fact, data is forcing the entire industry to make more informed, strategic decisions. Here are four key takeaways on how to strategically approach PR measurement.

Remember the basics. Too often, measurement is retroactively gathered when pulling together campaign reports. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: ask yourself from the very beginning "What is the most important metric?"

Impressions are an easy one to throw out there, but are they really accurate? It’s time to say goodbye to inflated numbers and hello to other metrics like share of voice and brand relevance.

Using tactics like awareness surveys, event attendance or message testing, we can achieve the results "that C-Suite execs truly care about," says Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO of the Institute of Public Relations.

These measurements require planning and setup ahead of launch. Therefore, treat them as importantly as you do the communication plan itself.

Collaborate. Collaborate. Collaborate. If you have colleagues down the hall who specialize in data, web development, sales, use them! They may not be the first people you think of talking to, but they have a lot to offer.

As SEO expert Ben Sprangler says, holistic integration makes every channel work harder. So, start by asking your colleagues in web development what keyword and search opportunities are out there. Then, tailor your comms and content with these keywords in mind.

Draw on help from the social team in understanding what platforms and KPIs they optimize against. Ask them how a paid media strategy can amplify your PR program with your target audience and what analytics are available to you.

Also, check with brand managers or the sales team to learn about the sales goals and how they are tracked. These collaborative conversations need to happen in every stage of the campaign, but especially in the beginning to avoid working in a silo.

Get cozy with Google Analytics. According to "Measurement Queen" Katie Paine one major skill PR (and all comms) pros need to master is Google Analytics.

Though it’s been historically challenging to demonstrate that direct sales resulted from earned media placements, tools like UTM tracking links can reveal how much traffic your placement drove. From there, you can also analyze who visited the site and how much time they spent on it so you can determine if a spike in traffic correlates to an uptick in sales.

All these numbers and insights can be used to help improve and sell in future PR efforts. We just have to know how to access them.

Be qualitative AND quantitative. "There’s a difference between measuring and counting," says Kieran Fagan, VP of communications at CVS Health. Numbers without insightful context don’t provide meaning, and qualitative feedback without numbers don’t prove business results.

While digital tools are critical, the human element of measurement cannot be overlooked. It’s our job as PR pros to take this bounty of data and use it to tell a captivating story. This is the qualitative value we bring to the table and must continue to, as numbers and data become more important.

While measuring word-of-mouth efforts isn’t always black and white, we can’t ignore the fact that word-of-mouth is the primary driver of nearly 50% of purchases. And, as the digital landscape continues to evolve, the ways we can measure and understand attribution and conversion will evolve as well.

Raleigh Cavey is a senior specialist in influencer marketing at Empower.

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