Since the first publication of the Barcelona Principles more than a decade ago, PR and its measurement have gone through a transformative—though not necessarily smooth—change. Industry professionals and leading industry organizations have aggressively discussed and debated vanity metrics and Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVEs) for years. The question being, if AVEs are no longer valuable, what is?
This discussion, though sometimes painful, has led to an awakening. PR professionals are discarding traditional metrics to embrace new strategies that more closely align with a business environment that wants data-driven insights. Unfortunately, AVEs are super easy to understand and explain to the C-suite, and there is no single metric that will replace them.
Instead of trying to find a new magic number, it’s time PR pros set their sights on measuring the impact of their outcomes.
PR can have both direct and indirect impact. Direct impact is desirable, as it means the PR activity has a clearly visible business outcome. For instance, a retailer gets a spot on a popular afternoon TV talk show thanks to the efforts of its PR department, and within the next couple of days the highlighted product sells out. No one can deny the connection between PR and the bottom line in a situation like that.
It’s not usually that simple though. Indirect impact—a PR activity that has implied business outcomes—relies on proxy metrics, which are used to represent the value of something else. We refer to them as “one-step-removed” metrics. The three we find most useful should be familiar to you: awareness, engagement, and reputation.
Here’s some of the ways these metrics meaningfully connect to business goals in language that your C-suite will appreciate:
Awareness: expanded customer base; potential for word of mouth/referrals; expansion into other markets/regions
Engagement: active vs. passive audience; warm leads; marketing qualified leads
Reputation: influence on customer choices; ability to charge a premium; credibility, trust, and goodwill among audience and customers
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First things first: what does the organization you serve hope to accomplish this month, this quarter, or this year? After you’ve identified the goals, you can:
Determine how PR can contribute to the business goal
Make a plan for achieving the desired outcomes
Decide which metrics you’re going to track to prove your impact (direct or indirect)
That’s the over-simplified version of things. We go into far greater detail in our guide, Measuring Impact, including practical takeaways like how the three proxy metrics we mentioned connect to the sales funnel, the type of language you should use to communicate results with your C-suite, and the role correlation and online amplification play in outcomes. You’ll even have some of the tools you need to address challenges like access to data, lack of resources and company culture.
Joy Knowles is the Marketing Content Strategist at Agility PR Solutions, a software solutions provider that helps PR pros generate and monitor media coverage, measure results, and demonstrate their value. Joy has been part of several internal communications teams during her career, helping to grow the companies’ client and customer bases through strategic communications, content planning and creation, social media management, and project and client management.