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PR measurement tipsPR pros will face growing pressure in 2018 to prove how their activities contribute to the organization’s sales funnel and bottom line.

In the coming year, it’s likely PR will increasingly work more closely with professionals who may be more accustomed to measuring results. Digital-savvy marketing teams may make substantial inroads into traditional public relations turf if PR does not PR demonstrate its contribution to the organization’s business objectives. Some PR veterans and many marketers predict PR will soon become a subunit of marketing.

PR measurement experts offer these recommendations to overcome PR measurement challenges in 2018 and gain its full benefits.

Track what matters most. PR can gain greater respect by placing less emphasis on metrics involving views and more emphasis on conversions. “Long gone are the days when effectiveness was measured by how many eyeballs you’ve reached. Today it’s all about getting the right eyeballs to act in a way that increases revenue,” says PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing.

Compare yourself to benchmarks. When making a case for resources, benchmark similar companies to compare staffing and results, recommends Seth Arenstein, editor at PR News. Beware of benchmarking your organization to the largest company in the niche. Compare your organization to competitors in the same geographical locations, in the same vertical markets or those seeking the same media audience.

Integrate communications measurement across all media. By integrating all communications measurement into a single dashboard, PR can collect and analyze all owned and earned media data for a comprehensive 360-degree analysis of all communications methods and strategies, making it more valuable for communications planning and implementation.

Share data and analysis with other departments. Segment the media measurement data and analysis and make it available to other departments in the organization that can use it to advance their missions, including marketing, brand management, competitive intelligence, country managers and other functions. Some media monitoring and measurement services such as our Glean.info make it easy to share data and analysis across the organization. Offer the other departments your analysis of the data and, if they are amenable, your recommendations for changes in communications programs.

Mine social media data. Social media analytics provide a treasure trove of data on consumers’ behavior. Every post, click, like and comment leaves an audit trail. PR and marketing departments can tap that data to identify audiences and understand their motivation.

“What is new is the scale of data in public relations and the growing availability of third party tools that enable us to make sense of it,” says Stephen Waddington, partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum. Explore social media networks’ native analytics tools such as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, to gain insights. Then explore third-party social media monitoring and measurement tools. Be aware of the provenance of data and any ethical considerations about using the information, Waddington adds.

Align PR objectives with the organization’s main goals. Measurement experts recommend first learning management’s top goals, and then selecting PR metrics that report progress toward those corporate goals that involve leads, revenue and profitability. “We’ll be taken serious as a discipline when we provide meaningful measurement that is aligned to the organizations that we serve,” Waddington says.

Focus on a handful of key metrics. A large number of metrics is time consuming to track, report and analyze. Some may be redundant, obsolete or even dangerous. Experts recommend focusing on five or fewer meaningful metrics.

Pursue qualitative insights. Achieving the full benefit from PR measurement requires both quantitative and qualitative measurement. PR pros can show their value by reporting how their activities impact metrics like newsletter lists, media mentions and sales leads. However, not every facet of communication can be measured by numbers. Qualitative measurement entails interpreting the data to find actionable insights not revealed by the hard numbers.

Review the content of media mentions. Measuring data from media mentions can provide many important insights on success of specific communications methodologies. But reading the actual content of traditional media mentions and social media comments, you can provide even more important insights about corporate reputation and how people really feel about the organization.

A single comment or image can lead to important recommendations. For instance, a pharmaceutical company found a photo man wrapping his leg in foil after applying the company’s pain relief ointment. He did it because the medication left stains that couldn’t be removed from certain fabrics. The photo prompted the company to change its product and improve customer satisfaction.

Select an appropriate measurement tool. Firms touting measurement tools abound, but few can meet all your needs well at affordable price. When reviewing media monitoring and measurement services it’s critical to research their media coverage, clip accuracy, customization abilities, graphic depictions and other capabilities.

Bottom Line: 2018 may be the crucial year for public relations. PR teams will fight marketing, advertising and SEO agencies to protect and expand their businesses. PR will employ sophisticated PR measurement practices to prove how their activities support key business objectives.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.