In this series, we’re going to look critically at the ways PR has traditionally been measured and the ways we’re measuring PR today. Measuring PR and earned media has always been something of a challenge in the past, but thanks to digital marketing and metrics tools, it’s easier today to find the impact of PR, even with businesses that have significant offline components.

Today, let’s look at how a couple of marketing metrics are impacted by public relations and earned media (and thus are indicators of PR’s effectiveness). The first and most familiar form of marketing metric, harkening back to our marketing lifecycle model, is the lead. Lead generation is the direct connection between audience member (which is PR’s primary output) and new customer, which is sales’ primary output. If public relations is about building trust, building brand recognition, and ultimately establishing or strengthening a relationship, then we should see a correlation between public relations activity and lead generation. The greater the number of people who recognize and trust the brand in the audience, the greater number of those folks who will raise their hands and step out of the audience to begin a business relationship.

At SHIFT, we’re lucky to have a few “unicorn” clients, clients who have no other significant marketing programs besides their engagement with us, which gives us a clean look at the impact of public relations without interference or obfuscation from advertising or any other programs besides our efforts. Here’s a demonstration of PR’s effect on their marketing data in terms of lead conversion:


There’s another, deeper aspect that most marketers and PR folks miss in marketing metrics: lead scoring. This comes primarily from marketing automation systems like Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, Manticore, and many others. For those unfamiliar, lead scoring is the process of scoring leads based on activities that they do. For example, if a lead visits a page on your website, you might give them 1 point. If they watch a webinar, you might give them 10 points, since that requires greater commitment. If they fill out a contact me now form, you might give them 50 points since that clearly indicates buying intent, even if you haven’t established budget or timeframe.

If your public relations program is working for you, you should see your lead scores increase with the audience you already have. As people hear more about you, they should keep coming back to you. Here’s an example from our own internal PR and marketing program, in which we looked at the lead scores of 851 active leads, first snapshotted at the beginning of January 2013 and then looked at today:

Microsoft Excel

We can see that in every one of the brackets for the same 851 leads, their scores have increased appreciably. Those leads have become more engaged with us over time. If we dig in even further, we can see that at least some of the scores come from our PR efforts, though this data isn’t as clean as our unicorn clients’ data:


These marketing metrics tell us that public relations, both for our clients and for ourselves internally, works well.

Also in this series, we looked at the following ways to measure PR:

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