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’s look at measuring PR is in the realm of paid advertising. You may be scratching your head already – PR doesn’t have anything to do with paid advertising at all! Actually… PR and paid advertising work amazingly well together. If you go back to the introduction of this series and the marketing lifecycle chart, you’ll recall that the primary function of media is to generate new audiences, audiences that we can then market to and ultimately convert into revenue. Advertising and PR fulfill the same function, to generate new audiences. They simply do it through different methods.

For the purposes of measuring PR, we’re going to confine our paid advertising efforts to digital advertising, such as Google’s Adwords, Facebook’s Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and other similar advertising networks that can provide concrete conversion data. Certainly, there are many other forms of paid advertising, but the advertising world struggles with measuring them in any meaningful way.

If public relations’ goal is to build new audiences by creating trust through earned media, then it stands to reason that the trust generated by PR should also apply to other media channels. For example, if you read a story about Brand X that is complimentary and compelling, it is logical to conclude that if you saw an advertisement for Brand X that was consistent with the tone and messaging of the earned media piece, you’d be more likely to click on it than if you hadn’t read a story about it. We should see this reflected in our clickthrough rates:

Microsoft Excel

If we see this, then we know PR has done its job of creating trust and interest, enough that it provides a boost to our advertising efforts. Depending on how well-designed and brand-consistent the website is, we might even see an increase in conversion rates, but that’s much more dependent on the actual conversion process, which PR can’t help with. If you have shopping cart software on your website that has 138 steps and requires every piece of personal information down to blood type and undergarment size, public relations is unlikely to have any impact on improving a bad customer experience.

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

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