The complexity of public relations can make measurement a Herculean task. Brands have diverse needs and objectives, along with an array of communication channels to choose from, which means those searching for a one-size-fits-all blueprint for measurement will struggle to prove true ROI.
A custom measurement strategy that goes beyond vanity metrics is the only way to accurately track your progress, prove the value of individual campaigns and show the impact of those campaigns across departments.
What Is PR ROI?
Introduced in 2010 and updated in 2015, the Barcelona Principles provide guidelines for how to best measure PR ROI, however, only 18 percent of those familiar with the principles have adopted this new measurement foundation.
What’s more, 27 per cent of AMEC members work with a majority of clients who demand advertising value equivalency (AVEs), which AMEC concluded in the original Barcelona Principles “are not the value of public relations.”
Calculating the value of your public relations goes beyond a single monetary amount for media placements.
“There are a plethora of ways to measure ROI today,” says Susan Rubin, Cision’s director of marketing. “It’s no longer all about the dollars.”
To calculate the value of your efforts, you must understand the overarching goals of your business and individual departments, identify the metrics that will track whether you reach them and continuously adjust your strategy.
Measuring each of the following areas is a great start. However, tracking the numbers alone won’t tell you the whole story. You need context.
That’s where benchmarking comes in. Benchmarks help you answer the why and understand how your campaigns have performed compared to similar past initiatives.
Look at previous campaigns, your progress year over year or even compare against competitors when possible to understand the value of your PR efforts.
Not sure where to start? Here are nine factors to consider when attempting to understand the value of your public relations:
To build awareness of and trust in your brand, your communication team needs to look for ways to establish authority in your industry. Speaking engagements, bylines in trade publications and guest appearances on podcasts or webinars are examples of platforms for thought leadership that will benefit your brand.
To establish goals, decide where and how you want to be considered a thought leader, which audiences are the most important to reach and how often in a given time frame you’d like to engage in a thought leadership tactic.
Then, create strategies to meet those goals. Whatever number of bylines or panels you decide to aim for will depend on the value you expect to draw from it and the ability of your brand to scale it.
When it comes time to compare success to past months or quarters, ask yourself: what’s already been done and how much more do you want to appear in front of your audiences?
To earn long-term credibility for your brand, look at how it can earn accolades. Set a goal for what types of awards and lists are most important to your brand and ensure you meet the criteria before you start gathering the needed material.
Whether you focus on department-based awards or product-based awards, remind yourself that an application doesn’t always result in a win. Determine how many awards you’ll apply for each quarter and set a reasonable number for possible wins.
Accolades help establish your brand as a leader and improve reputation, but determining their value gets a bit tricky. For example, if your brand makes it onto a top list, look to see if your competitors are listed too. If they’re ranked above your brand, think about how your brand can continue to evolve to surpass them next year.
To understand the effectiveness of your media relations, track your coverage from influencers, journalists and bloggers. Go beyond merely collecting press clippings. Using media monitoring software, find out how many people are talking about your news and on which medium it is most popular.
Track social shares, likes, favorites and the overall sentiment of the conversation. You should also pay attention to who is talking about your news and how influential they are. You may discover new contacts for future campaigns.
Also, keep track of your contacts’ interactions with your pitches to understand which messages resonate.
“Always include tracked links in your pitch to a reporter or suggested messaging for an influencer to use,” says Stacey Miller, Cision’s senior manager, communications. “They allow you to see if influencers are actually clicking and sharing what you send, and knowing that will help inform your outreach and pitching efforts.”
4. Audience Reach
If you want to increase leads through PR, you need to focus on building your audience and widening your reach. And this goes beyond simply looking at your social following.
Use UTM codes to track your website’s unique visitors from your public relations tactics and campaigns. Also, consider how long they spend on the website and the actions they take once they are there.
While your ultimate goal may be sales or sign ups, bringing people into the top of your funnel is essential to nurturing prospects to a buying decision.
With customized tracking links, you will understand how much traffic you’re driving from individual campaigns. It is often wise to use a similar campaign as a benchmark, but you will have to customize based on the channels needed to distribute your message, be it press releases, social media, email or something else.
Your benchmarks will depend on the campaign type, the size of the audience you’re trying to hit and the results of a similar campaign from last quarter or year.
6. Mention Volume
How many times is your brand mentioned by media outlets, journalists, influencers, bloggers, customers, prospects and others on social, digital and traditional media? This is your mention volume, and it indicates the impact your brand is having on a conversation.
Pay attention to these three types of mention volume: branded, unbranded and target audience.
- Branded mention volume: the number of times your brand’s name is mentioned
- Unbranded mention volume: the number of times keywords related to your brand or its products and services are mentioned
- Target audience mention volume: the number of times your brand is mentioned by your target audience
Depending on the size of your organization and industry, branded mention volume should be tracked and measured on a frequency that makes sense to your brand, whether on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. Monitoring branded mentions will allow you to identify opportunities to build relationships and strengthen your brand reputation.
Unbranded mention volume shows how effectively you’re inserting your brand in the industry conversation.
“If you take notice of which media outlets mention specific terms related to your industry most, you can better target your outreach,” Miller says.
Once you’ve identified the media outlets, prospects and influencers mentioning those keywords most, aim to educate them on your brand’s products and services and increase your share of the conversation.
Target audience mention volume proves the value of your public relations on a qualitative level by showcasing your media mentions by your brand’s most sought-after audiences. Look at how much earned media you’re gaining from targeted outlets and prospects on social to help demonstrate the value of your media outreach.
Comments on social and in traditional media can have positive, negative or neutral sentiment. No brand will ever have 100 percent positive sentiment. In fact, neutral sentiment, resulting from shared content for example, will most likely make up a majority of the conversation around your brand.
“While you’ll want to increase the positive sentiment, manage expectations by working towards small, singular percentage increases,” Miller says.
If you don’t have a starting point, take a period of time, look at the sentiment of the branded conversation and then use it as your base.
If you’re listening to your social audience and notice a customer complaint, use the opportunity to, as Jay Baer would suggest, turn a hater into a brand advocate.
Correcting the situation publicly demonstrates your brand’s customer service, and observers will be more inclined to stand behind your brand if they witness how you turn a negative situation positive.
8. Share of Voice
You aren’t the only brand vying for your audience’s attention. Share of voice shows how you stack up against the competition and determines your position in the overall conversation.
To measure share of voice, use media monitoring software to track your branded mentions across all channels, including social, digital, broadcast and print, and compare them against your competitors. Who has the biggest slice of the pie?
Keep an eye on your share of voice over time.
“Maintaining your position is good, but increasing your share is even better,” Miller says.
9. Leads and Sales
Determining which of your public relations efforts resulted in a sale is difficult, but a strong CRM system and multi-touch attribution model can help pinpoint which campaigns produced the most leads.
Campaigns that forget the relationship-building part of communication and focus solely on making money are bound to hurt, not help, your brand’s bottom line.
“Think about how both current and potential customers interpret the same content in regards to what you’re selling and how that may change your campaign expectations,” Rubin says.