PR metrics – like the metrics associated with other relationship marketing disciplines (events, social media) – have been traditionally hard to come by. But in today’s communications landscape, it’s a lot easier than it used to be to set data-driven KPIs that upper management can understand and appreciate.
1) Understand that Engagement is the Goal of a Data-Driven PR Program
In the modern messaging landscape, success = engagement. Whether we engage a traditional journalist and receive placement in the “Wall Street Journal” or engage an influencer on Twitter and receive a RT, our payoff is the same: we are earning media, and as a result we garner the impressions that we’ve traditionally used to measure success. (For more on that, check out this article on vanity metrics vs actionable metrics.)
The great thing about setting engagement as our primary goal in a socially-networked communications landscape from a PR metrics perspective is that – unlike “impressions” – it’s easy to prove: most engagement comes in the form of a click and can easily be monitored by standard social analytics.
2) Determine what Engagement Looks like on Each Channel
Engagement simply means that a consumer, or group of consumers, decided to share or interact with your messaging online. With regards to traditional journalism, that’s media placement: how many articles or releases were picked up? The social networks have their own metrics of engagement: a share on Twitter, a “like” or share on Facebook, or a favorite on Instagram, etc. All of these channels work together, so understanding what engagement looks like per distribution channel is important, even if we’re just going for the traditional media placement. The social engagement is what creates the message amplification we’re after, and as a result those are crucial PR metrics to track.
3) Measure & Qualify PR Engagement & Reach
How many people took an action on behalf of our brand? Now that we know what engagement looks like, measuring it is easy with the right tools. A good traditional and social media monitoring tool will identify and quantify that engagement for us, as part of a data-driven approach. One important delineation to bear in mind is the tracking of social shares - both from both paid and owned channels where possible (i.e. the article was on the homepage of the New York Times, and was then shared to Facebook whereupon it took on a life of its own. It was also on our own Facebook page, which spurred engagement from that audience. This type of channel-specific analysis will help us both measure and qualify our overall PR engagement.
Now, to answer the age-old communications question: is our message actually being heard? The qualitative side of measurement is less linear, but still doable: A good traditional media monitoring tool, in addition to a social listening tool, allows us to set up a variety of searches complete with threshold alerts that can tell us who’s saying what – and pinpointing the locations of these sources. In this way, we can track whether or not the language and positioning we’re introducing into the market is being adopted. If it’s not, by listening we’ve identified both what messages are out there, and where we might insert ourselves and/or engage in order to change that. This makes for a modern communications program cycle that looks like this:
The dialogue marketing cycle starts and ends with listening.
With this in mind, our PR metrics might list a hard number of RTs, and we might then qualify our success by showing a few concrete examples (i.e. screenshots or report snippets). This will prove that of our message is being organically shared, as other Twitter users endorse it and make it visible to their followers. Similarly, tweets that people favorite become visible to their communities as well. This is a fairly recent development but affects impressions drastically.
4) Measure and Analyze Reach for PR Success
The reach and impression numbers that our channel partners give us are also an important part of our PR metrics – impressions are, after all, at the top of a purchase funnel, and we want to understand the opportunity there. This is the PR metric we’re most used to using: in a time of offline communications, it was the best one available that demonstrated the value of media placement.
The power of message amplification via social sharing is that we can get significant impressions from earned media – and those impressions might be made on important influencers. Today’s media platforms don’t operate in a silo: reporters use blogs and social and bloggers use social media, and social media influencers use journalism and blogs. Or, as we learned from PRSA: paid, earned and owned media service to amplify each other. With that in mind, measuring our PR and general brand reach, in conjunction with both hard engagement metrics and qualitative messaging analysis, gives us a data-driven and holistic view as to the success of our messaging campaign.
PR Measurement in Summary
A customer is so much more than just a consumer. They are a vehicle for helping your brand reach new audiences and potential new buyers. A well-thought-out PR campaign with enticing content such as infographics and short-form social posts can help you gain organic media coverage along with syndicated content like a press release. From here, you can use Google Analytics and social listening to hone in on key focus areas and prove and increase in ROI.
Data-driven marketing is a key foundation of good public relations and an important part of your campaign evaluation and increasing revenue and exposure for your brand. Make sure you have the right tools to understand the impact of your messaging effort and to guide you in your journey towards content marketing mastery.