How to measure public relations success and failure
How to measure public relations success is one of the most overlooked aspects of the PR business. In the old school, PR success was largely measured by press coverage. But public relations has transcended beyond press releases and media relations.
It’s crucial for public relations agencies and managers to fully understand how to measure PR success, so they can maximize the value of PR and not limit it to just media engagements. Here are 10 steps for measuring PR success:
Share of voice
One of the methods of measuring the success of a PR campaign is to gauge the “Share of Voice”. A business’s share of voice encompasses how much that business is talked about in the public sphere compared to its competitors. If your share of voice is increasing, your business or brand is becoming more popular and gaining more traction.
Share of voice (SOV) remains one of the most valuable metrics in determining the effectiveness of a public relations program, how your content fared against your key competitor and how PR contributes to your overall business goals.
One key metric to watch in terms of PR effectiveness is the impressions or views of the PR campaign assets. These may not directly turn into sales or generate immediate revenue, but you can be assured that people are embracing your message.
Return on investment for public relations efforts is notoriously hard to quantify. Typically, PR drives more macro corporate goals and outcomes.
Corporate reputation is an excellent metric for determining the impact of PR campaigns because it measures whether you are actually changing hearts and minds or if your messages are falling on deaf ears.
The trick with measuring the impact of PR investments is to make sure you are measuring whether your campaigns are resonating with the right people and not just reaching them.
Outputs and outcomes
Measure PR efforts by outputs, such as estimated views, audience reach, number of articles published or number of social media shares. These are leading indicators, but they are not enough to demonstrate the impact of PR on the business. Outcomes are equally important.
Measuring outcomes can mean several things from analysis of who, and how many, voted in your polls to the overall purchase of a product or service. The best kind of PR outcome is, of course, to turn leads into retained customers who will, in turn, become advocates for your brand and raise awareness
Direct website traffic
A PR measuring metric to consider is direct traffic to the website, where people type the name of the company or product into the search engine and visit the brand website versus finding the company via keyword searches. PR is simply a tool in our brand awareness toolkit; the better the PR program, the more people are aware of the company and are coming to the website directly.
Message pull -through and connection
An often-missed metric when measuring a PR campaign is message pull-through. Did the message you were trying to send actually pull through in the coverage?
Did the article, news clip, or feature carry the right tone, sentiment and key points that you hoped to communicate by putting news out there in the first place?
One of the most direct, measurable forms of tracking the progress of a PR campaign is to track the number of press hits you’ve received. If your campaign has been mentioned in blogs, newspapers and websites, you’re able to track not just the number of hits, but the tone, narratives and outcomes of your campaign.
It is vital that these press hits are also of quality, as merely having a high number of mentions may not lead to meaningful engagement with your brand. Tracking these hits is the first step toward measuring effectiveness.
Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE)- outdated
The PR industry has traditionally simplified PR measurement to a single metric – AVE. Advertising Equivalent Value (AVE) refers to the advertising cost of editorial coverage, and is used as a means of determining the value of editorial media coverage
This reductionist approach of simplifying PR activity to a single metric, is old school, though still widely used by many public relations agencies. It has a stranglehold on the PR industry because it’s so simple.
Make no mistake. The ultimate goal of every business is to make sales. PR agencies should ask the tough question of how PR is contributing to this existential goal. Businesses are expecting sales from PR efforts too.
However, it’s a lot harder to measure the direct impact of PR on sales.
One way is to track the traffic and CTA’s on your website just after the PR efforts, because great PR helps in building credibility and trust among your target audience.
Ideally, this should have been the first PR success matrix. PR measurement should start with clear organizational and communication objectives. At the end of every campaign, the PR success should be matched against the specified objectives.
That way, it would be clear whether the public relations campaign was a success or failure.