PR Measurement: Crushing Your Public Relations Goals in 2023

It’s 2023, and the public relations landscape has evolved. Success in this industry now relies heavily on accurate PR measurement and data-driven insights. PR pros must adopt the best practices, learn to measure PR, and defend the insights.

Why this matters:

Executives across all levels are demanding to see the value in PR measurement. They are using this to determine future budgets and investments in public relations

By the numbers:

  • 74% of PR pros consider accurate measurement to be the most critical factor in achieving PR success (Cision)
  • Companies that prioritize PR measurement have seen a 47% increase in campaign effectiveness (Meltwater)
  • PR pros who use data-driven insights are 2.5x more likely to secure increased budgets and resources for their campaigns (Institute for Public Relations)
  • 30% of respondents believe the PR industry does not know how to measure PR success (Cision)

Brands and marketers have recognized the power of effective PR strategies in shaping consumer perceptions and driving business growth. But, for those who truly wish to dominate a space or industry and are placing their bets with PR measurement.

With the rapid evolution of digital platforms and audience preferences, companies strive to adapt and innovate. The key to success is understanding and evaluating PR through accurate and insightful measurement. By learning how to measure PR accurately, brands can make smarter investments in their PR programs.

Embracing public relations measurement is essential to make defendable decisions, allocating resources effectively, and fostering long-lasting relationships with audiences.

30% or PR pros do not know how to measure or define PR success.

What is PR Measurement? 

As the landscape of public relations continues to shift, brands and PR pros must recognize the significance of PR measurement to excel and stay ahead. While some general misunderstandings persist, it’s imperative to debunk these myths and grasp the actual value of PR measurement and how integrated it should be with brand health metrics.

PR measurement collects, analyzes, and interprets data to assess the effectiveness of public relations campaigns. It provides insights into brand health, consumer sentiment, and media perception. Some believe PR measurement entails monitoring media coverage or counting “media hits.” However, it should be considered a strategic approach to guide PR programs and highlight the impact on a company’s bottom line.

On a tactical level, here are a few basic ways to measure PR:

  • Brand awareness analysis: Primary research gauges how people feel about a brand before and after interacting with a PR campaign.
  • Media analysis: This is a quantitative method that looks at the type of media coverage (e.g., online, offline, broadcast, print, etc.), where it’s being placed (e.g., top-tier, mid-tier, or niche publications), and the sentiment of the article.
  • Social media engagement: This approach will measure the impact of PR within social networks.
  • Website analytics: This measures the website’s traffic after a PR campaign. You can also track user actions on your website, such as signing up for a newsletter or downloading a white paper.
  • Lead generation: This measures the number of sales leads generated from a PR program.
  • Sales: This looks at your PR measurements that could be attributed to direct sales.

Three Dimensions of Public Relations Measurement

Consumers are the driving force behind a brand’s success. They decide whether or not to buy and tell others about their experience.

Brands need to stay relevant to their needs, preferences, and values. In a world where consumer trust is increasingly hard to come by, PR measurement plays a critical role in helping brands understand where they stand in the mind of consumers.

Journalists, however, play a distinct yet equally crucial part in this ecosystem. As gatekeepers, they determine which stories are newsworthy and have the potential to resonate with their readers. They also act as tastemakers, using their expertise to write stories that reflect the interests and values of their audience. Given their influence, journalists have the power to either bolster a brand’s image or tarnish its reputation, which is why cultivating solid relationships with them is of utmost importance for any brand.

However, there are disagreements about the symbiotic relationship between brands, the media, and journalists. For instance, some critics argue that reliance on media and journalists for brand promotion can lead to a lack of objectivity and impartiality. They contend that brands may be tempted to focus on generating positive press coverage, which could result in biased or superficial reporting.

Others point out that the rise of creator marketing has weakened the influence of traditional media and journalists. They argue that consumers now have direct access to brand information and can form their opinions independently, bypassing the media and journalists altogether. This shift in power dynamics may make the relationship between brands, media, and journalists less critical than it once was.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that brands must be relevant to consumers to succeed. To maintain brand relevance, they must be in tune with their needs, preferences, and values. This is where the importance of the media and journalists comes into play. Despite the changing landscape, their roles in shaping public opinion and curating content that appeals to consumers continue to be instrumental in a brand’s ability to thrive in the long run.

The Challenges of Measuring PR

Measuring PR comes with a host of challenges.

One such challenge lies in quantifying the business impact of media coverage. While positive media exposure can contribute to brand equity, directly linking this coverage to tangible business outcomes like increased revenue or market share can prove elusive. This difficulty in attributing success to specific PR activities often results in a struggle to demonstrate the actual value of public relations to stakeholders.

Compounding this challenge is the inadequacy of many PR measurement tools. While these tools can provide basic PR metrics, such as the volume of coverage, reach, and share of voice, they often fall short of offering a comprehensive analysis of a campaign’s effectiveness. The limitations of these tools can leave PR pros grappling with incomplete or superficial data, making it challenging to draw meaningful conclusions and inform future strategies.

Adding to the complexity, data literacy and access to PR measurement tools remain significant obstacles for many PR professionals. Even those with the necessary skills and resources may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data. This information overload can lead to analysis paralysis, with PR pros unsure how to effectively harness the data to drive their decision-making processes.

Conversely, some PR professionals may choose not to use available measurement tools due to concerns about data overload. This reluctance to engage with data may hinder their ability to derive valuable insights and optimize their public relations efforts. Therefore, PR pros must balance utilizing data-driven insights and not becoming overwhelmed by the vast information available.

Setting the Foundation for Effective PR Measurement

There are several ways to measure public relations; every brand does it differently. In any case, there are several considerations.

First, brands must recognize the need for a budget to hire staff, consultants, or agencies to execute their PR measurement strategy. While hiring staff can provide more control and flexibility, it can also be costly and time-consuming. On the other hand, hiring consultants or agencies can be more cost-effective but may result in a lack of control over the measurement strategy. Each option has pros and cons, and brands must weigh these carefully to make an informed decision aligning with their PR measurement goals.

Second, brands need to become a data-first culture to be able to measure their PR efforts effectively. This requires a shift in mindset and a willingness to embrace data-driven decision-making. Additionally, the C-suite must support PR and measurement efforts to ensure they are taken seriously within the organization.

Also, brands must build a PR measurement framework aligning with their business goals. This involves defining the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure success, establishing benchmarks to track progress, and determining the reporting delivery and cadence. Identifying the resources required to implement the measurement framework effectively is essential.

To create a robust PR measurement framework, several inputs are needed. These include clearly defined goals that align with the business, deep knowledge of the target audience, and an understanding of the competitive landscape. Other critical inputs include an experience in the media landscape, access to PR measurement tools, and expertise in data analysis.

Integrating PR measurement into Crises

As the world of communication grows increasingly complex, identifying potential PR crises should be prioritized. For brands and PR pros, staying ahead of potential issues is crucial for maintaining a positive reputation. Being proactive in crisis management can mean the difference between a thriving company and one that loses its footing in the public eye.

Monitoring and mitigating negative coverage is essential to stay ahead of the curve. By leveraging tools and platforms, PR pros can gain real-time insights into the conversations surrounding their brand. This allows them to detect emerging problems and respond promptly, ultimately minimizing damage to their reputation. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, a swift and strategic response is more vital than ever.

Learning from past PR crises can provide invaluable guidance for future issues. Brands should consciously document critical learnings and best practices, ensuring they are better equipped to handle similar situations moving forward. By reflecting on past experiences, companies can gain a deeper understanding of how to navigate the complexities of crisis management effectively.

Proactivity is the name of the game when it comes to PR crisis management. Brands should learn from their own experiences and be diligent in conducting simulations and creating comprehensive plans to handle potential crises. This foresight enables companies to stay one step ahead, ensuring they are ready to tackle challenges.

The Future of Public Relations Measurement

One of the most exciting trends is integrating artificial intelligence (AI) with existing PR measurement tools. AI-powered algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data in real time, providing PR pros with actionable insights that they can use to optimize their campaigns. For example, AI can help brands identify which influencers drive the most engagement, which topics resonate with their audience, and which channels deliver the most PR ROI.

One essential application of AI in PR measurement is influencer analysis. By leveraging AI-driven tools, PR pros can identify the influencers who generate the highest engagement and conversions for a specific brand or campaign. In addition, these tools assess the influencer’s audience demographics, engagement rate, content relevance, and overall reach. With this information, PR pros can make smarter decisions when planning for influencer partnerships.

Another way AI is transforming PR measurement is through topic analysis. AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of content, including news articles, social media posts, and online conversations, to identify trending topics and themes that resonate with a brand’s audience. This enables PR professionals to craft more relevant messaging, ensuring their campaigns remain relevant and practical.

Moreover, AI can help PR pros determine which channels deliver the most return on investment (ROI). AI-powered tools can identify the channels that drive the most engagement, conversions, and revenue by analyzing data from multiple platforms, such as website analytics, social media insights, and email marketing initiatives.

In the past, PR pros primarily relied on metrics like impressions and reach to gauge the success of their campaigns. However, these measurements often fail to paint a clear picture of the true impact of PR efforts on a client’s business objectives. Consequently, the industry is now shifting its focus toward PR attribution, a more precise approach to evaluating the outcomes of PR campaigns.

PR attribution entails identifying and quantifying the direct impact of each PR activity on a client’s bottom line, such as increased sales, lead generation, or customer acquisition. To achieve this, practitioners employ advanced attribution models that leverage data from multiple sources, including website analytics, social media engagement, and media coverage. These models help to assign a specific value to each PR tactic, revealing its contribution to the overall campaign performance.

For example, a company might use multi-touch attribution, which assigns credit to various touchpoints along the customer journey. This allows PR professionals to understand how PR activities influence the customer’s decision-making process, from initial awareness to the final purchase

Understanding the Barcelona Principles 2.0

The Barcelona Principles 2.0 guides PR practitioners in measurement and evaluation, adapting to the increasing influence of digital and social media. These seven core principles emphasize consistent definitions, continuous improvement, aligning measurement with business objectives, clear reporting, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data, a comprehensive approach to PR measurement, and consistent evaluation for improvement. By adopting this common framework, PR pros can collaborate effectively and stay current in a rapidly changing landscape.

Cision’s 2020 Comms Report, “Measuring up to The Moment”

PR metrics and measurement remain daunting challenges for many. However, Cision’s 2020 Comms Report, “Measuring up to The Moment,” shines a light on this critical aspect of public relations. Let’s examine some key data points from the report.

Surprisingly, 30% of respondents feel that the PR industry lacks the knowledge to measure or define success. While the industry has evolved from merely counting media impressions, more sophisticated PR teams now employ advanced metrics encompassing social media, paid media, and audience analysis.

A more pressing concern is that many professionals are unsure which platforms or media monitoring tools effectively measure a PR campaign. Those familiar with the available tools often fail to utilize them properly. Delving deeper into the research reveals that agencies and enterprise brands not using PR metrics to support their business case also believe that the industry cannot measure PR effectively. This scenario is far from ideal.

Another intriguing data point centers around PR pros prioritizing earned media. According to the report, 50% of a PR strategy focuses on earned media measurement. However, this figure seems inflated and likely depends on how the question was posed. Time spent on earned media measurement is generally less than 10%. The report also indicates that 35% of respondents believe over 50% of their overall PR strategy is centered on earned media measurement. This percentage drops to 21% for influencer marketing and plummets to 13% for B2B enterprise technology companies with more advanced PR measurement approaches.

Shifting to PR budget allocations, approximately 70% of respondents spend less than 10% on media measurement. Depending on company size, a mere 10% allocation may be insufficient and should be given higher priority. An optimal allocation for PR measurement would be closer to 20-25% of the total PR budget.

While PR professionals often emphasize building relationships with media and influencers, such investments yield little benefit without the support of metrics. Respondents cited various challenges in managing public relations programs, from budgeting and executive support to PR outreach, content creation, and influencer engagement. Ironically, despite identifying media measurement as a significant challenge, respondents do not allocate adequate budgetary resources to address it.

Ultimately, the crucial question is not merely how to measure public relations or whether media monitoring tools are being used. Instead, it is essential to ask, “Are you measuring public relations correctly?” PR measurement extends beyond tracking media hits, encompassing a more complex process. Merely counting media hits through media monitoring falls short in time and effort.

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Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.