Public relations metrics, PR measurementQuantifying PR efforts is often challenging. PR has traditionally found it difficult to find the numbers that justify their work to management, measure their contribution to the bottom line and gauge the effectiveness of their various strategies. Measuring PR efforts is now mandatory if PR is to protect its credibility, budgets and business influence. PR measurement is more important than ever because of the spread of digital media and its focus on analytics.

The first challenge is to identify the absolutely, positively essential metrics to use for analyzing PR success. These are some of the most essential PR metrics. Although basic, general metrics such as websites visitors can be viewed in Google Analytics, more sophisticated measurements specific to PR purposes require a media monitoring service.

Some services, such as (formerly CyberAlert LLC), display analytics in a PR measurement dashboard that can integrate earned media (print, digital, broadcast), owned media (corporate, brand and consumer education websites) and social media (mentions on blogs and the major social media platforms) into a single visual display that allows organizations to easily assess overall PR strategies and specific projects.

Share of voice. Share of voice is the percentage of media coverage and conversations about your company, compared against those of your competitors. “By analyzing your share of voice you can gain the necessary insights to help make more informed ROI evaluations and strategic planning decisions,” states an ebook from PR and digital marketing firm onechocolate.

Net increase in share of desirable media coverage. “The operative word in this metric is share,” stresses Katie Paine, PR measurement expert and CEO of Paine Publishing, in her post on data to include in a PR measurement dashboard. Your share of coverage measures your organization against peers and competitors. Measure all conversations about your brand, products, or organization and rate them either desirable or undesirable — in other words, if the reader is more or less likely to support your business.

Most sentiment rating systems include ability to score articles/posts as “positive,” “neutral,” or “negative.” Automated sentiment analysis has serious shortcomings, and human analysis of published articles and posts requires an understanding of what factors fall into which category of sentiment. Often, it’s not obvious – so using trained analysts produces more accurate assessments and analytics.

Net quality score. Determine what messages are most likely to persuade people to buy your product and assign each a weighting, Paine says. Make sure the total for the perfect story adds up to 10. Then do the same to negative elements, making sure they add up to -10. Evaluate all stories in the media most likely to influence key stakeholders based on those scores.

Percentage of conversations with one or more key messages. The PR campaign’s message might be an initiative, campaign, new product or an actual message. But regardless of how you define “message” track the percentage of items that contain a key message.

Web performance. “The most important metrics to track are how much traffic a story sent to your site and what those people did once they got there,” says Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich. “Answering these questions will both show you which influencers are best for your organization and how earned media is driving sales.”

Companies can attribute website visits and conversions to PR by adding trackable links to press releases and other content PR creates. This allows you to determine the percentage of conversions that PR has generated, Paine notes. Conversions can be defined as traffic to a specific URL, such as the “Thank You for Purchase” page.

Media, blogger, and influencer scoring. Different clients and campaigns have different goals, so it’s important to assign value for every campaign. Consider the direct influence on your customer, reach or circulation, and the ability to drive leads, Dietrich advises.

New audiences. PR, which is responsible for attracting new audiences, can track new website visitors and quantify their value. “Once audience value is quantified, the ROI of PR is computable in real dollars and cents,” Dietrich says.

Bottom Line: Determining what metrics to track is one of the first and most critical steps for PR to measure its value and contribution to the bottom line. Although the right metrics vary depending on the campaign and its goals, PR measurement experts say there are must-have metrics for every PR campaign.