There has never been more data available to measure public relations results, so why are so many companies still reporting clip counts, gross impressions and ad equivalency value?
We cling to these old metrics even though they are a poor way of determining if public relations is pulling its weight. These numbers are easy to get. They can look impressive. Bosses love to see them. Year-over-year tracking offers a historic yardstick. But in large measure this data does little to determine the value delivered. In some cases, it can be misleading and deceptive. Similarly, measures of output—press releases issued, social post counts and pitches made—are gauges of activity, not results. These can be useful diagnostics, but they do little other than suggest how busy the PR team has been.
In a perfect world, we would have the dollars available for pre- and post-campaign research with target audiences to track movement in consumer awareness, reputational perception changes among key stakeholders and brand preference, such as intent to purchase or net promoter scores. Few companies have the ability or willingness to do these kinds of tracking studies over the long haul. Still, we have an obligation to go beyond clips, impressions and fictional ad value.
Here are 10 KPIs that provide useful metrics in tracking public relations success from publicity, social media, event activations and other tactics:
Share of Voice—How are you doing against your competitive set? This places clip counts and gross impressions under a discerning microscope.
Key Message Analysis—Are the import points you are trying to communicate getting through to key audiences? Determine if your messaging is getting traction and if your spokespeople are in need of media training.
Coverage Sentiment—Positive, neutral or negative. Understand more about how your brand is being perceived in the market.
News Source SEO Impact and Social Amplification—Is the coverage you are generating helping to boost brand awareness and improving where and when your brand appears on the web and in organic social?
Headline/Feature/Passing Mentions—Get a picture of whether your brand is receiving focused coverage from the media, or just casual attention.
Social Media Followers—Tracking net audience growth across your key platforms can help illustrate the level of interest generated by various public relations tactics.
Social Media Engagement—Total impressions can be misleading. Knowing if your followers are engaging with your content and how this activity compares to competitors provides an indication of effectiveness and message relevance.
Employee Engagement—Keeping track of employee likes, shares and comments on your social posts can give you an indication of staff morale and commitment.
Website Referral Sessions—Tracking the number of people who come to your website via a piece of coverage or organic content tracked by using hyperlinks can help you strategize future types of activity. You can also show impact from public relations’ contribution in terms of form fills and content downloads.
Website Visit Spikes—Comparing website visits to the timing of major announcements, article placements, organic social media activity, event activations and sponsorship exposure can provide a cause and effect metric.
The great thing about all of these metrics is that virtually all of the data is readily available and fairly easy to track. Once you move away from using impressions and other vanity data, you can begin to demonstrate how public relations influences brand equity and other business factors valued in the C-suite.