One topic that’s always paramount in the PR industry is how to tackle evaluation and measurement of PR campaigns. How PR professionals demonstrate the effectiveness of their work has shifted significantly in the past decade. Now, any good PR pro measures outcomes rather than outputs and aligns PR objectives with the organization’s main business goals.
So just how do we prove how PR activity supports key business objectives and strengthens a company’s bottom line? Here are six measurement tools that provide more in-depth reporting of how communications campaigns are making progress towards achieving corporate goals.
Social Media Monitoring and Measurement
Digital and social media are an integral part of PR. Most communications campaigns focus on creating content that people want to talk about and share on social channels, increasing the importance of measuring the impact of social media.
Because social media measurement tools have evolved so extensively, there are many ways social media ROI can be measured. 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.
Traffic driven to your site can be measured through tracking URL shares, clicks and conversions; share of voice can be measured by tracking activity compared to that of competitors so you can understand where your brand falls in the hierarchy.
Website traffic provides an excellent gauge of how a PR campaign’s performance. Measuring web traffic before and after a campaign launch can help determine the PR campaign’s success. Straightforward visitor numbers tell part of the story, but you should also drill down into web traffic by evaluating demographics including age group, location and device to ensure you’re reaching your target audience.
It is also important to measure where website traffic originates to establish which sites and social media networks send the most traffic and create the most value for your brand. A rise in new unique visitors indicates that brand awareness has grown, but it’s also important to monitor returning visitor numbers – a good indication that brand trust is has developed. Engaging content, such as blog posts, infographics and videos, encourages return visits and ensures your audience relies on your brand for inspiration or the latest information.
Another important web metric is goal conversions. Whether they are subscriptions, form completions, or e-commerce transactions, conversions enable you to track the ROI of PR. If the PR campaign reaches the right target audience, it should increase the number of conversions or qualified leads.
Qualitative research is essential to track a PR campaign’s success. Surveys should be used prior to a PR campaign to ascertain awareness and perceptions of the brand. While PR professionals use market research to gather information on market trends and potential opportunities when planning a campaign, it’s also worthwhile to conduct surveys during and afterwards to measure how awareness, attitudes and perceptions have changed. Awareness statistics that trend upwards will certainly prove the value of PR activity.
Number of Backlinks
Backlinks are among the most important factors in achieving high search engine ranking. They boost SEO and increase web traffic. Gaining better search engine placement is a key measure of successful PR activity.
Because Google assigns greater value to legitimate backlinks from authoritative sources, PR can be critical in obtaining those backlinks through innovative and engaging content. The number of backlinks is a good metric for understanding if your audience finds your content relevant, useful and valuable. After all, it’s every brand’s goal to appear on page one of Google!
Higher Rankings for Specified Keywords
Keyword rankings can be used to measure specific terms you are trying to rank for. If you do not rank for your most relevant keywords, your organic website traffic will decrease, which will affect lead generation and ultimately sales and revenue.
Measuring keyword rankings enables you to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords and to determine if your brand’s page rank is improving over time. As you gain more backlinks, your site becomes more trusted. If the measurement of keyword rankings reveals that this is not happening, then there is something wrong with the existing PR campaign.
Monitoring your brand’s coverage across all media channels is integral to evaluating the success of a PR campaign. Some metrics to monitor include the number of articles secured in target titles and audience reached. In addition to conducting quantitative measurement, consider qualitative outcomes to analyze the content of the coverage. Were key messages included? Was the tone of the article positive? What share of voice did your brand receive versus competitors? These elements will determine not just how much coverage your brand received but also whether the coverage was valuable.
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. To have the greatest impact on business results, PR measurement must determine its return on efforts and investment. It must also identify where campaigns can be improved. While none of the metrics mentioned above will give a full picture of the success of a PR campaign, together they will clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of PR activity.
Kate O’Sullivan owns award-winning PR agency, ADPR.co.uk, a specialist communications agency with experience spanning a host of sectors, including health, wellness, outdoor, marine, leisure, food & drink, professional services and B2B. Kate has worked with some clients for over 15 years.