Measuring PR, A Series: Working Backward to Decide on Objectives and KPIs.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 things that do not work.” - Thomas Edison 

Measuring PR continues to be one of the biggest challenges in our industry. To really dig into these challenges and present solutions to measure the most important metrics, I decided one analysis would not be enough. Welcome to my first series of three for measuring PR!  Measuring success is important in any industry. But in PR, we have not cracked the nut on how to do it well. Advertising value equivalency has been debunked as a bad metric. Big impression numbers are nice to look at but seem shallow.  

Why is it so hard to come up with one tried and true measurement system? 

  • Usually, we are not selling a product, we are generating awareness. 
  • It is challenging to even demonstrate ROI with social and PR tactics. 
  • It is difficult to demonstrate attribution. 
  I attended PR Measurement Boot Camp 2 where I was able to learn from Jen Bruce with Adobe, SEO expert Stella Bayles, and CEO Katie Delahaye Paine with Paine Publishing, on how best to measure media and PR efforts. While there were many takeaways, I’ve decided to start my series off with the value of KPIs.  First, it’s important to recognize the difference between key performance indicators (KPIs) and your team’s objectives. An objective helps guide us towards the finish line, while KPIs illustrate whether we are performing above or below the target interval we’ve set. In order for us to accurately set our goals, objectives and KPIs, it’s essential that we should decide first on what is valuable and worth measuring. That way, we can put in place a measurement system that allows us to get that data and act on it.  What makes PR measurement even more difficult is figuring out the right data to collect; there is a danger in relying on the wrong types of numbers. That’s why it’s important to base your measurement structure on business goals and objectives. It doesn’t do your campaign any good to get billions of impressions on something that resulted in your company’s market share or popularity dropping.   

Here are a couple of questions you should research and know before setting your communication objectives: 

  • What are your company’s or client’s business objectives?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your budget?
  • What do you want your audience to do with the information you’re giving them?
  • What do you want the effect of your communication to be on your audience?
  • What is the overall impact you hope your communication causes?
Developing your objectives just got a lot easier if you work backward from answering the questions above.


Now the tough part: how do you measure your efforts? 

The cool part about measuring PR efforts is that every campaign, initiative, or event can be measured in different ways. What does the perfect story look like for your organization or your client? Does the type of outlet matter to you? Does the story need to have a video or image included? Does coverage need to occur in a specific market? Do you need a certain number of people to visit the website? Whatever your metrics are, make sure you have a number of qualitative AND quantitative measurements.    

Here are a few examples of what you can measure: 

  • Number of stories generated
  • Impressions
  • Type of media 
  • Geographic breakdown (where are the stories placed, and who is reading them)
  • Coverage including image or videos 
  • Coverage links to website 
  • Coverage by topic/theme
  • Coverage conveying key corporate messages 
  • Sentiment 
  • Coverage drives to landing page 
  • Social engagement 

And here are a few ways you can measure them: 

  • Growth of social following and engagement 
  • Growth of visitors to landing pages 
  • Minutes videos are viewed 
  • Monitor social conversations 
  • Annual surveys
  • Live social Q&As 
  • Focus groups
  Once you are able to define the metrics that matter most to your communication objectives, score away!


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