The Impact of Public Relations: Measuring and Communicating Results
By Chris Soto, Account Executive
You carved out the time to meet with the reporter, prepared your answers, knocked the interview out of the park, and the resulting coverage was great—almost flattering, but you are still left thinking: what was the material benefit for you and your organization?
This is the age-old question executives have asked ever since public relations became a service, and it is worth reiterating and reexamining, especially in today’s media landscape: how do you measure public relations (PR) success and share that information?
In today’s fast pace digital age, the world of PR has experienced a significant shift.
As digital media continues to dominate all communications and is now effectively the avenue for corporate communications, measuring PR success has become an ever-challenging task. Reporting standards have evolved, and PR professionals now face the challenge of translating metrics into tangible results that align with business objectives and demonstrate the value of their efforts.
In this blog post, we will examine how PR reporting has transformed over time, share insights on some of the new ways we are seeing metrics translated to results and define a few key terms.
Aligning PR with Business Objectives
Imagine you operate a major beauty and cosmetics company, and a key business priority is to increase brand awareness amongst a younger demographic. Like any business objective, you want to have quantitative metrics that demonstrate positive business growth or evidence that you are headed in the right direction. The same applies to PR.
Before the internet, PR initiatives were measured by the number of articles that featured your brand and the publication’s circulation. The data available to PR professionals in the past was limited and only provided approximate views into a PR campaign’s impact. Earned media coverage is still an especially useful metric in a modern context, but in today’s data-driven world where much more granular information is available, these data points alone are no longer sufficient to convey success.
Today, each organization’s version of PR success is unique, consequently making the task of devising useful metrics a bespoke art. Unfortunately, there is no universal template for measuring campaign performance, and excessive data can often distract rather than add clarity. Therefore, it is crucial to narrowly define success and identify a handful of key metrics.
Touchdown PR excels in this regard by taking the time to understand each client’s unique goals and adapt our approach for each for accurate reporting. For some, success may lie in securing links in niche yet relevant publications, while others seek visibility through mainstream media coverage. Using the example from earlier, success could be defined as breaking into more online publications with a younger audience.
The Quest for the Right Metrics
According to a survey conducted by Muck Rack, the average number of metrics used in a report deck/dashboard is around six; however, popular PR reporting tools and services such as Releasd can pull more than 20 different metrics for every piece of coverage — from online coverage views to social media engagement metrics. This demonstrates the dizzying amount of data available to PR professionals and reinforces the need for a narrowly defined set of metrics to measure success against.
Below are four metrics that belong in most PR report decks:
1. Total Pieces of Earned Coverage – One of the more important metrics as it demonstrates tangible PR results and the value of services.
2. Online Audience Reach – Demonstrates the approximate number of views earned media coverage generated.
3. Social Media Engagements – Supplemental information tracking earned coverage performance across social media sites.
4. Share of Voice – Your organization’s share of total industry coverage within a specific time frame, typically one month.
Along with clearly defined metrics, a regular schedule of reporting needs to be established between you and your PR agency. Depending on the size of your organization, this can be structured weekly, monthly or quarterly. Typically, most organizations benefit from monthly updates as there is enough time in between reports to identify growth or changes in coverage trends.
The four metrics listed above are a good basis for general PR tracking, but it’s important to understand you can take tracking to even finer levels. Tech-oriented organizations may want to consider measuring analyst engagement, channel and trade publication features, and funding/IPO announcements.
Unraveling “Share of Voice”
Earlier in this blog, “Share of Voice” was listed as one of the key metrics that belong in most PR decks, but there has been growing discontent around the practice within the field as many believe it does not offer a full picture without serious competitor monitoring. We want to quickly tackle the subject here and offer accompanying metrics to round it out.
The term “Share of Voice” was borrowed from the advertising field, and it positioned that the more advertising dollars an organization spent, the greater the share of the market they would own. In the PR world, it means a company’s share of total coverage within an industry in a given timeframe. It is meant to illustrate how one company’s coverage compares against its competitors and who currently leads in impressions and audience reach.
The issue with “Share of Voice” is that it does not consider the context or sentiment of competitors’ coverage. A competitor may appear to have impressive audience reach numbers, but without dedicated competitor coverage tracking, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why that is. A PR team’s goal is to ensure their client is represented well and secure beneficial coverage for them; dedicating their resources to track competitors can detract from that goal.
A better alternative would be to narrow “Share of Voice” from including all coverage to select publications relevant in your industry. This ensures that you are focusing resources on publications with audiences that are within your target audience.
PR metrics and reporting have become a pivotal element for agencies in communicating tangible results, and hopefully this blog post has provided insight into the process.
Touchdown PR provides leading PR services and clarity when it comes to understanding how your PR strategy is performing. If you need help with PR strategy and support, you can contact us to get in touch.