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.

In this post, we’re going to look at social media as a proxy for measuring public relations. Social media itself can be measured in three broad categories, from audience growth to engagement to conversion.

Audience growth

One of the principal indicators of the effectiveness of PR is the growth in audience. As more people recognize and like you, your brand, your products, and your digital identities, your audience should grow. Effective PR should be reflected in the number of people who follow you, Like your Facebook page, circle you on Google+, etc. While these numbers aren’t an end result (because a following is no guarantee of bottom-line activity), they are important diagnostics. If your PR and marketing can’t even get someone to push the Like button, then chances are you won’t get them to make greater commitments to your company.

For example, we began doing much more aggressive social media outreach and publication back in December, 2012:

SHIFT Communications Twitter Stats - Twitter Counter

Does a Twitter following matter? It does. It’s the first step in engagement. After all, the finest products and best service don’t matter if there’s no one to use them.

Audience engagement

Engagement is the second indicator of the effectiveness of your PR. If you do a great job representing your company and brand, not only will you grow awareness, you’ll also grow trust, likability, and authority. We measure that with commonly provided social metrics that revolve around actions people take, from network-specific metrics like retweets to aggregate views in our web analytics.

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 an example of audience engagement by measuring in Google Analytics the number of unique visitors who come to the website via social media channels:



At the end of the day, PR awareness and engagement still have to help create business with measurable bottom-line goals. Using Google’s Multi-Channel Funnels to capture interactions on social as part of the overall conversion process, we can see the impact that our social media efforts have both in last-touch conversions and in assisted conversions where social was part of the process but not the finisher, not the closer:

Notification Center

Pick the networks where your brand is strongest, then run public relations efforts on those networks and measure the impact!

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

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