Communicating the Value of PR: Stop Dodging, Start Measuring

PR

Recently I was out to dinner with a digital strategist friend and she raised a question that, admittedly, caught me off guard. “What is it that you do?” she asked. From one communications professional to another, the question seemed unapologetically sarcastic. Then, as if to add insult to injury, my friend ever-so nicely followed up with, “Ok, how do you measure what you do?”

Oh no, the “M” word.

In all my years in PR, I’ve essentially been able to dodge the “M” word. How? Easy. By hiding behind media clippings, fancy media reports, shares, “likes,” tweets and elaborate, but successful, events. If this is you, it’s time to come out, come out wherever you are. Not only is it time to stop dodging; it’s time to start measuring.

Translating news releases and news hits into dollars and cents
Given the sheer amount of data that’s available to us nowadays, PR pros have ample opportunity to quantify their efforts and show executives what’s working and what’s not. As hard as it is for me to succumb to, it’s also high time that we get comfortable showing how our efforts affect the bottom line.

Data, where have you been my whole life?
By creating key performance indicators (KPIs) and specific metrics tied to “awareness,” I now have even more ammunition to communicate the value of public relations to organizational leaders. For the first time, our PR team has a dashboard which provides a monthly analysis of not just media hits and news releases, but things like tone and message quality. What’s more, we use tagging links and Google Analytics to track conversions tied to our press releases, proving that PR does indeed help drive company revenue.

Getting started
To say that quantifying PR efforts beyond the typical vanity metrics makes me uneasy would be a huge understatement, but embracing it has enlarged my perspective on the power of analytics and given me a newfound love for data. There are a plethora of dashboard tools and tips out there to get you started. For instance, check out Dashboard Junkie or the PR Measurement solution offered by Meltwater. Warning, once you’ve been bitten by the PR data bug, you’ll likely want to track any and everything. However, it’s best to start small, be strategic and continually iterate.

Already measuring your PR efforts and showing value to your execs? Share your tips and tools with me in the comments below!

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.

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The Value of PR

Bill Gates may understand the importance of public relations when it comes to running a successful business, but not everyone shares the mogul’s point of view. For many PR pros, it can be difficult to even explain what public relations is to those outside of the industry, so it’s no surprise that our clients (or sometimes even our employers) don’t quite get the value of what we do.

Unlike other professions, those who work in PR don’t always have a clear way to show ROI. You can show a client hundreds of clips, online interactions and community engagement materials, but what are they worth? Advertising value equivalencies don’t quite cut it. Simply stating the number of brochures or newsletters distributed isn’t enough. So, what do we do? How do we prove the value of our work when most results in PR are qualitative rather than quantitative?

There are no fool-proof answers to these questions, but there are a few steps we can take to help measure the success of our PR-related efforts.

  1. Make sure your goals are clear from the beginning, then do a simple evaluation of whether each goal was met. What do you want people to know? What do you want them do? How many media placements do you want to secure?
  2. Look at the quality and quantity of media placements. Consider circulation, tone and message inclusion for each media mention. It is also important to demonstrate trends – show how the company/client is being perceived by the media.
  3. Include social media analytics in the mix. Benchmark your number of followers, reach and engagement before starting a new campaign, then compare the statistics once that campaign is complete (or at another key point).
  4. Add questions about PR tactics to an existing survey, or create a new one for your client that focuses on audience change. Many companies already have a survey that measures consumer behavior. You should be sure that some of the questions and answer options in these surveys are based on the tactics of your PR campaign. For example: When asking a customer why they chose a certain product, include earned media stories (like a feature in a magazine) as a potential answer.

For a more detailed look at measuring the success of PR efforts, check out this report from Ketchum. 

This post was written by PPRA Blog Chair Lauren Cox. Lauren is a Public Relations Specialist in the Office of the CIty Representative, where she works on the City’s major events like the Wawa Welcome America! Festival and the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.