Measuring PR ROI: Why Counting Hits Means Nothing

Measuring a PR program can be difficult.

How and what you measure can vary based on the goals of your program and who your audience is.

I recently attended a measurement conference held by Cision and Vocus in New York that discussed this topic. The room was full of PR professionals from all industries and company sizes. Everyone was in agreement that ad equivalency is “dead,” and that there needs to be a better way to measure the impact of PR.

The push back on ad equivalency and the ineffectiveness of this comparison was based on the fact that an earned editorial placement is much more credible and more likely to be read than an ad. It also is fair to say that the size of an article and the size of the ad are not comparable. This becomes even more inaccurate for online placements, where articles and banner ads are even less comparable.

When you’re asked to justify the investment for a PR program, where do you start to measure?

In my experience, it has been all about quality, with a little bit of quantity in the mix. At the core of almost every PR plan is the goal to increase leadership and awareness, and there are simple ways to track and measure these efforts.

Measuring Awareness

First, understand what you want to raise awareness of – a product, the company, a service, or all three. From there, identify specific messages you want to communicate. For example, if you are a cloud-based software company, you might want to increase awareness of the company, as well as the software you are selling. Awareness of the company is important to establish credibility and awareness of the software is vital to drive customers.

Next, identify your targets for the business, vertical market and technology audiences. What are they reading? Where are they getting their information? From there, it’s a matter of working against a list of 10-20 top targets for quality articles that can help you meet your objectives. Month after month, measure the progress made in those top targets, and challenge yourself to be more creative with each passing month.

Measuring Thought Leadership

When it comes to establishing yourself as a thought leader, it is important to identify what you want to be a thought leader in. Identifying a few topics to “own” will help keep you focused and the coverage relevant. Bylined articles on business trends or commentary in larger feature stories are where a thought leader can shine. It is important to identify the stories or publications that align with your goals. Be judicious in offering your clients each and every opportunity that comes up just to keep the business in the news. Within a time-limited budget, building relationships and pitching new ideas to your top-tier list may be more worthwhile.

Another great opportunity for measuring thought leadership is through Twitter and LinkedIn. Through the measurement tools available online and by tracking clicks and web traffic, you can gain informative insight into who is reading your articles, sharing them, and then visiting your site. Connecting companies directly with reporters and influencers through social media channels also keeps your business top of mind and engaged in the industry.

The next time your company issues a press release, and you see there were 240 “hits” through PR Newswire, ask yourself what impact that had. The answer is likely little to no impact at all. Redefining how you measure PR will help you gain more effective results for the program and the client.

Post by Kathleen Fusco, Director