(Editor's Note: We've updated this popular post to ensure it's even more helpful)
PR measurement has been a bugaboo of the PR industry for years. Of course it mattered, but it was easier to fugeddaboudit, leaving it to fester with all those other items no one wanted to deal with. Because so much of PR is intangible, and offers long-term results, it doesn't fit into a common financial mold when it comes to metrics.
Even though public relations measurement doesn't follow what we could consider a "traditional" pattern, it can still be done.
In this post we'll cover:
- Why public relations metrics are important.
- How to measure PR effectively.
- What metrics are important to show you the real effect of your PR strategy.
- What public relations measurement tools will help you to succeed.
Why Are PR Measurement Metrics So Important?
It’s estimated that companies spend about $11 billion on PR per year. With budgets tightening across the board, many C-suite executives are asking to see a return on that investment. But when surveyed, 82% of marketers report that they have no way to evaluate the return they receive on PR.
Does this mean that PR is impossible to measure? Not at all.
After all, public relations has had an incredibly positive impact for both small and large businesses. The ROI is out there; we just have to use the right metrics to prove it.
Sure, PR metrics can seem unnecessarily complicated -- but that doesn't mean they have to be. Businesses have data at their fingertips. You just need to know what to use and hone in on the data that's important to your business.
Numerous benefits accrue from active public relations measurement. For starters, PR metrics...
- Offer a better understanding of a PR campaign's results
- Show the impact of your efforts across all your platforms
- Allow you to compare the effectiveness of PR campaigns
- Demonstrate investment value for your PR strategy
- Allow PR professionals to prove their worth to an organization
- Provide future direction
In the words of PR expert, author, and entrepreneur Gini Dietrich, "We finally have the opportunity to prove we’re an investment."
How to Measure PR
Before you begin to think about measurement, it's important to outline your key goals. As measurement expert Katie Paine advises, "Be very clear about your goals. Goals drive the type of measurements you are going to use." For example, if your goal is to save money, your metrics will be very different from a company who wants to enhance its brand's image.
Once you have your goals in mind, choose public relations measurement tools that will make measurement easier. These public relations measurement tools could be a free program like Google Analytics, or a premium subscription tool such as Moz, AirPR or Trendkite. Such tools are key to measuring public relations, as well as the value of your content and campaigns.
In PR, it is important to measure both short-term and long-term results. Often, you'll need to prove quick boosts from specific PR campaigns. Other times, you'll be more focused on steady growth over a long period of time.
PR metrics can get super duper complicated - but that doesn't mean they have to be CLICK TO TWEET
According to a recent study from Hubspot and Trendkite, another big problem facing PR professionals is knowing what metrics to use. 56% of respondents said that their biggest challenge was tracking the right metrics.
Keep in mind that public relations measurement should not be limited to just your brand. To get a better picture of your overall public relations metrics, you need to measure those metrics against your competition.
Let's look at some of the most important metrics that will help you to show the true impact of PR on your brand. You can use these as a general guide to your public relations measurement goals. Even if your business is on the smaller side, there are some key small business metrics to measure. It all depends on your specific goals. And of course the metrics you choose will vary depending on your business goals and priorities (hat
tip: Lusine Kodagolian)
12 Important Metrics to Include in Your PR Measurement
1. Website Visitors
Website visitors are always top of my metrics list. After all, the more that people are exposed to your brand, the more likely they are to trust you with a purchase. We can break down website visitors into three groups, depending on where they originate. This could be...
Owned content from areas on your website.
Earned content from outside sites where you guest blog or post your original content, or where you're mentioned in an article written by a reporter or blogger.
Social content from posts to your social media networks.
Owned content is pretty straightforward -- consisting of blogs, ebooks, video and any other content you've created and own. But metrics from earned and social content can pinpoint what sites and social media networks are most effective for your brand. In time, you'll discover the sites and networks that work for your brand, and focus your energies and resources on those.
PR Tools For This: Any basic metrics program, such as Google Analytics, can show you how many unique visitors you have on your website and where your traffic hails from. There are also premium-priced content measurement tools you can choose from that will give you more detailed information.
Your rank on Google is crucial to getting more leads and earning the trust of website visitors. Every company with a solid PR strategy strives for the golden SEO status of Google’s first page. Measure your rank in Google regularly.
Take your top 10 keywords, and measure your position quarterly. Are you further down than you would like to be? Then tweak your SEO strategy in order to rank higher up toward that coveted #1 spot.
Another basic (and free) way you can monitor this is by using the incognito tab in your browser to search for your keywords. The incognito tab ensures results that aren't tainted by your personal preferences and web history. You'll see a clear picture of how you rank for your chosen keywords.
3. Domain Authority
Your website’s domain authority is a major part of your SEO ranking. We consider it separately though because it's a valuable metric itself to reveal how your site stacks up compared to others.
This metric is ranked on a scale of 1 to 100 (100 being the highest authority). This ranking is one of the factors that Google takes into account -- the higher your domain authority ranks, the higher you will land in Google searches. Moz offers a free tool that will show your website’s domain authority.
Domain authority is ranked according to a number of factors. These factors include:
- Links to your site
- Links from your site to other authority sites
- Your site’s age
Backlinks are links from other sites that direct traffic back to your site. Backlinks are a great source of traffic, but also help to boost your reputation both with search engines and audiences. But not all backlinks are created equal.
Backlinks range in size and impact. Here are three kinds of backlinks, with differing degrees of value:
- A good backlink will mention your brand in a positive way, but doesn't include an actual link for people to click through to your site.
- A better backlink will not only mention your brand but also include a link back to your site.
- The best backlink that you want to get is one that links back to your site, but also mentions a positive aspect of your brand (especially if this is a keyword that you want to rank for).
Any of these backlinks will positively impact your brand, but of course the higher quality ones will carry more weight.
Keep track of the specific backlinks to your site, the quality of each and their origin. This will help you determine what links boost your authority and impact your brand image.
5. Email List
View your email list as the backbone of your business. If your content strategy is successful, then it will lead to a steady influx of email addresses, which are your potential clients.
Use special links to your landing pages and email sign-up forms to see where your email addresses are coming from. Is it a particular gated offer, such as an eBook or white paper? Is it a simple sign-up form at the bottom of your content or in a sidebar?
If you aren't getting the email sign ups you want, then it’s time to analyze what offers or calls to action aren’t performing up to standard. Take that information and use it to modify your landing pages and offers until you find a combination that works.
This metric helps you to determine something that was previously elusive for PR professionals: awareness. Mentions help you to see how many people are talking about your brand, and how well known you actually are.
Discover what people are saying about you, including the good, bad, and the ugly. Keep track of specific mentions and see what PR campaigns drove them. This will show the effectiveness of your campaigns, what conversations are sparked, and the resulting positive (or negative) impact on your brand.
There are a few things you need to pay attention to when tracking mentions. As we already noted, the tone of the mention is very important. But also determine the source of the mention -- if it's a publication, what is its readership? Where is it located? Does your target audience read that publication?
Also, you want to determine what share of industry mentions you receive vs. that of your competitors. For example, if there are 100 mentions of your industry that pop up, but only 30 mention your name or brand, and 70 focus on your competitor, then you only have 30% share of voice. This could indicate that you need to focus on creating a more powerful message that gets heard above the other noise in your industry.
PR Tools For This: Set up an alert tool such Google Alerts to ping you every time your brand, organization, product, or an important individual within your organization is mentioned. Establish one for competitors as well in order to see the big picture.
7. Qualified Leads
Valuable leads are qualified, prospective clients -- those who are serious and may eventually make a purchase. Realistically, only a small percentage of your email addresses will actually end up purchasing your product or service.
Learn where your qualified leads are coming from. Use special links to track the trail your clients left behind -- did they find your site via a specific media outlet, or social media post? This can help you narrow down where serious decision makers look for information.
PR Tools For This: Use Bitly to set up tracking URLs so you know exactly where your leads clicked through to find you.
8. Message Resonance
Can you measure whether your audience positively receives your brand message? Yes you can. How?
First, lay out the key messages that you want to use for your brand. Once you have your key messages locked down and ready to go, include them in your media coverage and other earned media opportunities. Make sure that these messages are at the forefront of your campaigns.
Once you've promoted these campaigns and enough time has gone by to gauge the response, you're ready to assess how your messages resonated. Instead of merely looking at how many articles were published as a result of your campaign, look specifically at how many among them contain the key messages you created. Also, pay attention to how many likes and shares that articles with your message received on social media.
What does this information tell you? It shows you how many media outlets understood the key points you were trying to get across. And of the ones that featured your message, how it was received by your audience.
For example, say you launch a new product. You create a campaign message to highlight how your company is focusing on greener initiatives with this product. When you see the results, one third of the articles published focused on your greener initiatives, while the rest ignored that message. It's likely that your message didn't resonate with your audience the way you thought it would.
Social media is an effective place to boost brand awareness and credibility. It can also help you to reach new audiences.
Because social media is so powerful for your brand, you need to measure engagement to ensure you’re getting the most out of it. Engagement measures such factors as likes, comments, views, and shares. Armed with this information, you can understand the best times to post, what content work best, and uncover more specific data about your audience.
For instance, metrics guru Katie Paine notes, "When we factor in the engagement, it tells us what people are REALLY paying attention to rather than just what people are talking to themselves about."
PR Tools For This: Many social media networks have their own analytics programs, such as Facebook Insights or Twitter Analytics. Other programs, such as Kissmetrics, offer a more comprehensive view of social media engagement.
10. Social Shares
We're going to separate this from general engagement for a moment, because social shares are specifically important to show the overall reputation of your brand.
Social sharing buttons are an essential part of your website. Make sure that every element of your website is sharable -- from individual blog posts to infographics and videos.
Be specific when you record social shares -- what kinds of articles get more shares than others? This kind of precision can help you to monitor the overall sentiment of your brand. For example, if you notice that your articles about industry trends and issues are shared more than others, you can deduce that your brand's expertise is a calling card.
PR Tools For This: If your website is not equipped to give you specific metrics on shares, then find one of many social media monitoring tools that does. We recommend ShareTally for this job.
11. Bounce Rate
You may get people to visit your site -- but how long do they stay there? This is where bounce rate comes into play. It measures not only how many people come to your site, but how long they remain -- and whether they click your links to see your other content.
From this metric, you can find ways to keep your audience on your site longer. Test out various changes to your content, and see how it affects your bounce rate.
PR Tools For This: A basic analytics program, such as Google Analytics, will provide this information.
Although overall website visitors are a good metric ithemselves, the number of referrals you get is even more important. Referrals show you how many new eyes are viewing your site and learning about your brand.
Are people coming from content you post on social media? Influencer campaigns? Press mentions? With referrals, you can see what site people come from, and get an idea for what piques their interest. Then you can hone in on what outlets and campaigns work.
There are many aspects to public relations measurement. But these metrics are a good starting point. Use these metrics to stay on track, show your value, and help you adjust your strategy as needed.
Want to boost your public relations strategy? We can help -- check out our Storypress Technique and read about the strategy we've personally used to take B2B companies from anonymity to 740 million impressions!
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