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prove PR value, PR measurementHow can PR prove it contributed to the bottom line? That’s probably the most frequent question PR professionals ask. PR pros face increasing pressure to justify their work. Those who cannot demonstrate their value to the C-suite risk having their budgets slashed. Digital marketers can cite metrics like click through rates or email open rates, but PR is more difficult to measure because results rarely are direct and immediate.

PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing recommends five steps to demonstrate the value of PR:

Identify the organization’s goal. That’s what management sees as the goal. The goal is not to win media placements. It’s to get something to change, such as constituency opinions, the number of attendees at an event or the volume of incoming donations. Often, it’s to increase customer leads or sales.

Determine what makes your target audience act. Establish what makes your stakeholders change their minds or behaviors. At e-commerce firms or large companies, marketing research and customer intelligence departments might have that data. If you’re not that fortunate, you’ll need to conduct research by interviewing key company personnel and surveying stakeholders. Look to senior leadership and/or sales managers first for answers.

Determine how what you do influences the behavior of stakeholders. Some organizations, especially large companies, have data on PR’s contributions, such as when sales spiked following an earned media placement. If not, do your own research. Audit in-house data, such as data from the CRM system and Google Analytics. Then meet with senior leadership to agree on what defines success or an acceptable proxy.

Connect the dots. Correlate that goal or proxy to PR data. “You probably have positive negative and neutral articles, plus possible message presence, prominence, dominance, and a host of other criteria that media monitoring companies provide,” Paine says. Then use a statistical analysis package or the statistical functions in Excel to run tests of the data to see if there are correlations.

Report results. Review how PR contributed to the organization’s goals, and then show the outcomes, followed by the details and the numbers. Rather than boring executives with every scrap of data, report the most significant findings and insight and have the data available in case executives ask questions.

More Tips on Proving PR’s Value

Start now. Don’t wait until top management asks you and your team to prove your value to the business, warns Brent Diggins, partner, measurement & analytics at Allison + Partners. Start a PR measurement program now so that when the C-suite inevitably demands proof of communication’s contributions to the organization, you’ll be prepared.

Find an analytics expert – or become one. Find someone who can become your “analytics bodyguard.” Whether this person is an existing employee or an outside agency, the importance of having a “numbers” person cannot be overstated, Diggins stresses.

Take the long view. Earned media campaign results are not always direct and immediate. Measure sales data over time instead of seeking a sudden spike, advises communications professional Jessica Lawlor.

Do something new that creates data about impact on leads and sales. Create a give-away of real educational value that produces requests. Refer the people who make requests to sales. Follow those people through the sales funnel.

Seek anecdotal information. Interview people at the organization, from front-line sales to HR, to obtain anecdotal information on how PR helped their department reach goals.

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. 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: More than ever, corporate managers demand to know how PR contributed to business objectives. PR pros who cannot prove how they helped meet business goals place their budgets at risk, yet PR measurement remains challenging. Agreeing on appropriate goals and metrics, careful research and selecting the right PR measurement tool can help prove PR’s case.