The close of the year is quickly approaching. With that brings trade show season (Oracle Open World, Dreamforce and AWS re:Invent, oh my!), executive predictions on what 2017 will bring, and the often-dreaded End of Year reporting exercise. PR teams have long deplored the challenges of how to best measure your PR success and effectively report program results.
Yes, it can be difficult to understand how to justify your team’s hard work to management, or to measure PR’s contribution to the bottom line. Traditional agencies will pull together a coverage report – or, for the old-school PR folks out there, a clip book – and count up their hits. But savvy PR professionals will look for ways to demonstrate how their team’s work in earned and social media impacts the larger marketing mix.
As the only PR agency currently meriting recognition as a Google Analytics Certified Partner, we take a data-driven approach to reporting whenever possible. While every client’s definition of success is different, we believe in demonstrating PR’s true impact across paid, earned and owned channels.
With a variety of measurement categories available, it can be challenging to select the right mix. So here, in no particular order, I’ve outlined my top five metrics for measuring how PR results directly impact a client’s bottom line.
Quality and quantity of coverage:
Yes, this one’s tried and true. But, every single one of my clients still cares about the number of articles we secure throughout the duration of the year. Why? It’s easily measured and a good indicator of progress – a year-over-year percentage increase in coverage can easily be cited as validation for PR spend. But, don’t forget about measuring the quality of coverage. Securing 100 articles in obscure, low-tier outlets is not going to cut it. How does one measure the quality of coverage? There are a few options to consider:
- Develop a leaderboard of key outlets or reporter relationships and track traction against the list each quarter
- Assign a ranking system to rate the quality of each article: five points for a feature in a business outlet; four points for a feature in a top trade; three points for an executive quote, and so on. Then, work toward a number goal, either annually or quarterly
Share of Voice vs. competitors in the media:
My colleague Matt Trocchio said it best in his earlier post: this metric can be tricky as it is so easily “gamed.” To combat issues with sentiment and inaccurate data, SHIFT recommends tracking metrics in five key areas of your business – search, social media, paid advertising, owned content and earned media. If that sounds interesting to you, I suggest checking out our SHIFT reflex.
This one is fairly straightforward – is the client’s messaging being reflected within earned coverage? This metric is especially helpful in determining whether or not the media understood the key points of a launch, a new company direction or corporate strategy. The process is fairly simple: select the 1-2 key messages (keep them succinct) that each article should hit on. Then, during coverage monitoring, identify the percentage of articles that included those key points.
Media article referrals:
Mostly everyone will agree that PR does indeed drive web traffic. But, if an article results in a significant amount of website traffic and no one sees it, does it exist? The solution: grant your PR team Google Analytics access – even if it’s just read-only. Not only does the site help determine which outlets are driving traffic from earned coverage (sometimes the outlets we least expect are the largest traffic drivers!), it also provides insight into which social media platforms are successfully sending audiences back to the website for additional information.
This is the Holy Grail for PR professionals. Having the ability to put a value on earned coverage – for example an excellent feature in FORTUNE driving hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue – is the truest measure of program success. PR teams should work with the clients to understand their broader business goals and align PR conversion goals. This might include targeting visitors from a new industry/vertical to grow market share, or an X percentage increase in whitepaper downloads to improve the sales pipeline.
Ultimately, your team should measure your PR success by addressing what really matters to key stakeholders – the Board, the C-suite and, internal client contacts. Working together to outline KPIs and then tracking against them on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis ensures that everyone’s aligned and working toward the same goals.