Modern PR Measurement: How to Measure the Impact of PR and Communications

By Natalie Marinaro, Vice President

Every business and business unit must be accountable for meeting goals. PR is no different.

While there is no industry standard for PR measurement, many brands still rely on old school methods — ad equivalency, impressions, coverage volume — that provide little visibility into the actual impact that PR provides a business.

We’re not saying that these traditional methods don’t have a place in the grand scheme of program measurement — they do. They are key indicators. But they should not be the only standard to which PR ROI is measured and refined.

How we measure PR programs

At SHIFT, data influences everything we do. It’s no surprise that we rely on data to measure the impact of PR efforts. While every program is different and each business must report on metrics that matter to their stakeholders, the strongest measurement (and results) happens when PR is fully integrated and aligned with marketing. With marketing and sales goals in mind, we typically recommend, 1) measuring share of mind and 2) quantifying business impact.

Measuring share of mind (versus share of voice, for example) shows how visible and valuable your brand is to consumers/prospects compared to competitors. Brand perception surveys are one key way to measure this; calculating SEO value is another, more accessible one.

Performing an SEO audit lets a brand understand its SEO value and how a PR program can close any gaps. A few ways we measure share of mind:

  • High domain authority link building: Media sites are “rated” by how many other sites and sources link back to it. Higher ratings indicate a site has more credibility and “authority.” Securing coverage (with links) in these sites boost your website’s own domain authority (ultimately improving its ranking potential). In PR, it’s key to measure how this coverage impacts (and improves) a website’s domain authority and resulting discoverability.
  • Keyword impact: At SHIFT, we analyze current coverage to understand what sites and authors are most likely to include keywords clients want to rank for. We’ve found that trade outlets tend to provide more keyword-rich coverage than top-tier press. It’s key to set KPIs and measure coverage with valuable keywords and in strategic publications and that content is discoverable by search engines.
  • Branded search: PR programs — in tandem with other awareness-building marketing activities — should help increase volume a branded search. This means more visitors should arrive to a website by searching for queries that include the company or products’ name(s). This output should be part of any modern PR measurement dashboard to see broader program impact.

Measuring impact ensures a PR program is contributing to sales, revenue and other outcomes that matter to the business. For many clients, we integrate early on with their marketing team to build online measurement dashboards that track (in real-time) how PR coverage is helping them meet sales goals, convert prospects and drive new marketing qualified leads. A few ways we measure PR impact:

  • Traffic growth: PR should be measured on how coverage drives traffic, new visitors and prospects to a site. It’s even possible to measure how coverage contributes to specific marketing campaigns. This proves how much brand visibility PR drives each month and shows the value of using PR to amplify marketing efforts.
  • Lead generation: If a primary marketing goal, PR should also report on how many leads it helped convert. Using goal completion values, that number can be quantified into a tangible dollar amount that shows (part of) the “dollar value” of your PR program.
  • Customer acquisition support: Monitoring whether a piece of coverage helped convince a customer to buy a product or service is an ultimate form of PR impact. While every click from coverage may not directly convert a visitor into a lead, with Google Analytics it’s possible to track and report on how coverage influencers customers along their journey.

We believe modern PR measurement must look at impact and outcomes over activity — and that search metrics are a valuable indicator of share of mind, which goes far beyond share of voice, and intent.

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