Improved measurement can elevate the PR profession, agreed experts speaking at a PRWeek Breakfast Briefing. Better measurement will prove the value of PR to corporate management and help PR secure funding, greater influence and a voice in high-level corporate decision-making.
Most importantly, the PR profession faces growing pressure to prove how its activities contribute to the organization’s sales funnel and bottom line.
These are some practical solutions to the PR measurement challenge.
Discard – or Limit – Vanity Metrics
Vanity metrics pose the largest obstacle to high-quality PR measurement, according to speakers at the PRWeek session. However, other PR executives say vanity metrics can be help, at least to a limited extent.
“While there is still value in measuring awareness of and engagement with your brand through the number of likes, comments, retweets, replies and shares, the real pay-off is measuring how these likes and shares turn into sales,” writes Kate O’Sullivan, owner of the PR agency ADPR, in a blog post.
Vanity metrics are easy to obtain and tend to correlate with email subscriptions and free trials, argues Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of Moz. They can help digital PR pros understand what types of content resonate with audiences and serve as a proxy for more meaningful metrics. But periodically compare actionable metrics like conversions and revenue to those vanity metrics to better understand impact on corporate goals.
Cut Through Data Clutter
Vast amounts of data sometimes overwhelm PR pros who spend vast amounts of time analyzing numbers, tracking metrics and reporting findings. To cut through the clutter, decide what matters to your business and identify metrics that support those goals. Beware of obsessing about metrics that bear no connection to business objectives.
View metrics through a single dashboard that includes news, social media and website analytics rather than trying to track metrics through different sources. An integrated dashboard of results saves time, provides real-time access, and displays a comprehensive view of performance.
Services that include trained human analysts in addition to automated software analysis can provide more accurate judgments and uncover actionable insights that hide within the content and data.
Choose Appropriate Metrics
While ideal metrics vary among organizations, PR metrics can often include website referrals, mentions, message resonance, and share of voice. Article quality scores can grade the quality of media mentions based on the quality and relevance of the publication, the prominence of the mention, and other factors. First define your goals, compare progress to benchmarks, determine what matters most to top executives, and report only want matters.
Focus on Sentiment
By tracking changes to brand sentiment over time, PR can show the value of their work. While automated sentiment analysis of social media mentions offers the benefits of faster turnaround and potentially lower costs, the accuracy of the automated analysis often falls short of levels needed to produce valid results, insights and decisions. One solution is to combine automated sentiment analysis with selective reviews by trained human analysts or to rely solely on human analysis for smaller numbers of media mentions.
Find Advanced PR Measurement Tools
Media monitoring and measurement tools have advanced tremendously in recent years. Media measurement dashboards can now integrate data from all media sources. In addition, some media measurement vendors can customize their standard package to clients’ specific wants and needs.
“Monitoring your brand’s coverage across all media channels is integral to evaluating the success of a PR campaign,” O’Sullivan says. “Ultimately, measuring the effectiveness of PR activity depends on having solid PR objectives and KPIs agreed to by all stakeholders at the beginning of the campaign.”
Bottom Line: PR is inherently more difficult to measure than other communications tasks. Yet PR must prove its worth in the battle for funding and influence. Selecting the right metrics and the right measurement tools improves the prospects for top-quality PR measurement.
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, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.