[Editor's Note: This post was update on November 30, 2019 with more important metrics to follow]
PR faces a conundrum. We have loads of examples where a solid PR strategy has contributed to a brand's growth and visibility. But PR teams still struggle to prove the value of PR to their C-suite executives.
A recent survey from Proof Analytics found that while all but one of the 400-plus C-suite executives surveyed said they believed great marketing and communications create business value, 96% said their marketing and PR teams were “unwilling or unable” to prove return on investment. And 94% of executives reported that they had little or no reliable understanding of the quantifiable value delivered by marketing.
The failure to prove value has a direct impact on PR's bottom line. In the same survey, 96% of the executives said their 2019 marketing and PR budgets would be cut by at least 10%.
How can you draw a direct line from your PR activities to your company's bottom line? PR metrics are key to getting everyone on the same page where PR and its value is concerned.
Why Every Brand Needs PR Measurement
PR practitioners know that PR has great power for any business.
With little understanding of its value and the inability to prove it, brands view demands for increased communications budgets with a hefty dose of skepticism.
This leaves us with one very important task ahead of us: Prove PR value beyond a shadow of a doubt.
How to Prove PR's Value
Your first step is to set goals for your company. Without goals in place before you launch your campaign, any metrics you get are merely numbers. If you want to learn where you need to improve and what is working, set goals to measure against those numbers.
The second step to effective PR measurement is investing in good analytics software. This could be a free program, such as Google Analytics. If you are looking for more nuanced analytics capabilities, check out paid services as AirPR or TrendKite.
The third step to setting up a PR measurement strategy is to determine what metrics are key to proving your worth. These might vary from industry to industry and business to business, but there are a few that remain constant, no matter your brand.
With this in mind, let's look at a few key PR metrics that will help you on your journey to proving PR value -- and get you a few steps closer to securing more budget and appreciation for your PR strategy.
Note: The first part of these metrics pertains directly to pitch emails and earned media placements, while the second half addresses website and digital metrics.
The Value of PR: 6 PR Metrics You Need to Track
Pitch Email & Media Placement Metrics
1. Pitch Volume
This number refers to how many individual pitch emails you send during a given PR campaign. This might seem simple, but it lays the foundation for your PR campaign metrics -- without it, you'll have nothing to compare with your with metrics. Depending on the size of your team, you can also measure this volume for each team member.
This will vary by industry. If your topic or industry is extremely niche, your pitch volume and other metrics will be smaller.
2. Placement Rate
Placement rate is how many of your pitches result in a media placement or press mention. This ties back to your pitch volume showing you how effective your pitches are.
This is an important number because it breaks away from simply how many press mentions you accumulate and gives you a more accurate picture of success.
For instance, if your campaign addresses a niche area of manufacturing, you might send out 20 pitch emails. But when you compare that with 10 media placements, you find that you have a winning placement rate of 50%.
3. Days to First Placement
This number refers to how many days from the time you send your first pitch email until you get your first media placement.
Using this metric, you can see when a pitch is taking an abnormally long time to earn a placement. If it does, you might need to adjust your campaign strategy. Or there might be another reason, as we'll see in the next point...
4. Interest Rate
Some people are so focused on press mentions that they forget that there are other metrics that are just as important, such as interest rate. This is the number of publications who reply to your pitch email divided by the total number of pitch emails you have sent.
Perhaps your placement rate is low, but when you follow your interest rate you notice that quite a number of publications responded to your pitch email without giving you a placement. This shows that your pitch was relevant and persuasive to journalists, but there most likely was something out of your control that prevented them from taking that next step. Perhaps a breaking news story took precedence. But at least it shows that your pitch was on point.
5. Decline Rate
While it's important to measure how many replies you receive, you want to make sure you have the entire picture of your campaign's success (or lack thereof). Your decline rate (the rate of how many journalists do not respond to your pitch) will help you to see that big picture.
If your decline rate is high enough, it may mean that you need to work on your pitch strategy or that it simply wasn't relevant to the journalists on your list.
6. Total Days of Outreach
How do you know when to abort a campaign that isn't producing results? That is where total days of outreach comes into play. It's important to count how many days have passed since you sent your first pitch email.
After a few campaigns, you'll see how many days on average a campaign takes to get results. If you have a campaign that goes way beyond that average, it might be a sign that your campaign isn't working. Consider ending your campaign to make room for another that may get better results.
Website & Digital Metrics
7. New Users
Now let's shift our focus to the measurement of PR that pertains to your website and digital marketing strategy.
New users are individuals who visit your site for the first time. While this number isn't the be all to end all, it's an important first metric to monitor over a long period of time. As more people gain exposure to your site, this number should grow. If it doesn't, you need to start adjusting your strategy.
As part of this metric, pay attention to where your new traffic is coming from. Are visitors coming from social media? Organic search? Influencer marketing campaigns? A recent PR campaign?
Understanding where people are coming from -- and even where they are not coming from -- helps you to determine which strategies are working and which need to be aborted.
8. Returning Users
Admittedly, it's exciting to have a new user come in contact with your brand -- but it should be equally important to see people returning to your brand. Why?
Not only are returning users more likely to make a purchase, but the more they return, the more trust is built between the visitor and your brand.
This is also why content marketing is such an important part of your PR strategy. As you maintain a steady flow of content creation, it keeps audiences coming back to see what new information they can glean from your site -- and continues to build confidence in your brand as a trusted source.
Measuring the amount of people who return to your site over time shows the long-term impact of your strategy.
9. Bounce Rate
A “bounce” occurs when someone visits your website and leaves without visiting another page. Your bounce rate shows you the percentage of your visitors who bounce off of your site.
This number shows you if people are engaged with your site. Granted, new and returning users are important -- but this new piece of information can tell you how interested they are in your site.
If your bounce rate is high, it tells you that someone came, took one look, and left. If it is low, it tells you that the visitor browsed a while before moving on.
How can you use this information? Take your pages with a low bounce rate and examine them to see what makes people stay. Is it the subject matter? The visuals? A report you used? Then take that information and apply it to your other pages.
If a page has a high bounce rate, determine what may make people leave once they've clicked. Does your title misrepresent your content? Do you have enough visuals and bulleted lists? Is your writing stale and boring? Take a long, honest look at what you can do to improve the page and its bounce rate.
10. Social Media
Social media is an integral part of modern public relations -- it is, after all, where your audience consumes the majority of its information. Understanding how many people interact with your social campaigns is key to seeing how effective your PR is.
Number one on your list should be how many people click on your campaigns. This is key since it shows how many people were attracted enough by your message to click through to your campaign or content.
Second, it's important to monitor your social interactions. How many people liked, commented, and shared your content? This shows how much overall interest there is in your brand -- even if they didn't click through.
The data will pinpoint which social networks are working for your brand. If you're pouring money into Facebook ads, but you're getting more results from LinkedIn, then it's time to adjust your social budget allocation. If you're spending a good chunk of your time tweeting on Twitter, but you're seeing little if any interaction, then you might want to go a different route.
11. Mobile Users
In 2019, it's predicted that mobile phone users will climb to 4.68 billion. Yet, in many PR strategies, mobile users are little more than a footnote. Most often, mobile users are simply viewed as part of a PR campaign's larger audience.
Why should you monitor interactions from mobile users? Smart phones and tablets are becoming the devices of the future, if not moment. It is important to know how your brand is perceived from these devices.
As you monitor your mobile metrics, ask yourself the following questions:
- What devices does my audience use and how do my campaigns appear on those devices?
- Should I invest in a mobile-friendly design when I create my campaigns?
- Should I include a mobile app as part of my campaign?
This information, along with close analysis, will help you to create appealing and effective campaigns no matter where your audience is.
While the number of new and returning users is helpful information, ultimately you want people to act. Whether it's buying your product or downloading your latest ebook, it's important for visitors to convert into leads and customers.
Initially, it's normal for people to check out your brand and not take further action. But if a lot of people are clicking on your campaign but few people are converting, root out where the problem is. Is your call to action weak? Your landing page a turn off? You offer not a grabber? Start tweaking your conversion tactics one by one to see what's working, what's not.
The value of smart PR is undeniable. But without proof, you will find it hard to convince others or improve your campaigns. Start measuring your PR activities and have real numbers to show the impact your campaigns have on your brand's bottom line.
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