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4 Real Ways to Measure PR's Business Impact in 2018

Matthew Luongo  Follow

Measurement and public relations go together a bit like oil and vinegar. It can be done, but it takes a bit of shaking and stirring and a little je ne sais quoi for them to really stick together.

While we don't have emulsifiers, our industry does have a slew of measurement options like media monitoring services, analytics platforms and databases. But as much as these promise to help, they often obfuscate.

As PR professionals, we are required to be honest and transparent in our work – and that should extend through an entire campaign. The final step of any campaign is reporting, and slapping inflated impressions numbers on the wholesome PR work we've done doesn't do anyone justice. It can create false expectations and benchmarks for future campaigns and introduces uncertainty as our clients share results up the management ladder.

So, what are we to do? Fortunately, we can borrow some best practices from our digital marketing colleagues and tie them into our PR work. Below are four ways to begin measuring the business impact of PR in 2018 – if you aren't already.

1. Share of Voice in Key Publications

Most PR professionals are familiar with the term "share of voice" (SOV) by now – a term stolen from the advertising world that focuses on the relative percentage of media owned, compared to available space or other competitors. But while we've appropriated the term, we can't quite take the methodology.

Automated media monitoring services scan tens of thousands of "publications" in order to calculate PR SOV, often leading to results that are incomprehensible. We need to apply the same data-driven thinking and gut instincts that lead us to care more about certain publications than others when performing SOV analysis.

A combination of automated and manual analysis is key. Work with your client to narrow in on the handful of publications that really matter to your audience, and then tabulate media hits for you and your competitors within that universe only. The result will be a more manageable and accurate representation of your voice in relevant earned media.

2. Web Traffic

Unfortunately for PR practitioners, publications are typically reluctant to link bank to client websites – and they're guaranteed not to use our UTM codes, no matter how much we ask.

What we can do is measure relative increases in direct (unknown) traffic and search traffic to a client’s website. If an individual reading a story about a client is interested in learning more, they're likely to do one of the following things: Google the company name, or directly enter a URL to visit a website.

Luckily, we have ways to track both of those. Google Analytics will detail any change in quantity or quality of visits stemming from search results or a direct URL entry. Monitor traffic in the Search and Direct acquisition channels in the days following a media hit, and note any changes in Unique Viewers, Views, Bounce Rate and Average Time Spent on Page. The first two will help you understand if PR is driving any additional users to their site, and the latter two will help you understand if PR is driving higher quality traffic.

In the B2B world especially, these traffic changes might be small – so don't be afraid to dive into the data and check for increases in the hundreds as opposed to tens of thousands.

3. Social Media Engagement

Social media platforms now share organic impression numbers as well as engagements, so an increase in the number of users following or viewing your content in the days after a media hit can be a strong indicator of PR success.

Maintain a running average of impressions, likes, comments, shares and followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn ahead of time, so that when a PR hit strikes, your benchmarks are ready to be put into action. Additional traffic from PR will boost impressions, and you might even see a noted spike in engagement too.

And since most users are driven to news outlets from social media feeds today, be sure to track and report any social shares of your media placement as well.

4. Lead Generation

While it is not the primary goal of PR to drive bottom-funnel lead conversions, sometimes we're just that good! A feature piece or notable mention has the potential to resonate throughout the entire funnel, leading to new prospects or direct sales.

That's why creating an open dialogue with clients – and even their sales teams – is necessary. It's important to set up monthly or quarterly check-ins with clients' broader teams in order to track any major PR wins that fall outside of digital measurement. Maybe your hit in The Wall Street Journal drove a $100,000 deal! That might just be the most important tracking you do all year.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions – for PR reporting, salad dressing, or otherwise? Get in touch in the comments below or on social at @ProsekPR. 

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