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Communications KPIs: How Do You Measure PR?

When companies approach us for PR help, they have often already had a bad experience. They hired an agency, but had no way to measure whether the investment had moved the needle at all. This is a common issue – and one that needs to be proactively discussed and understood both by the agency and the client.

Setting a benchmark and then measuring against it takes time – but can be invaluable, not just in justifying the investment in the program, but also in ensuring you’re continually reworking the program to maximize your results.

So how do you measure PR progress? Even though most marketing majors didn’t really love math in school, it is all in the numbers.

What to measure?

There are a host of things you can measure when looking at PR programs. For media relations, the sheer number of stories about your company, product, service, team is a good place to start. For our clients, who receive 2x yearly measurement reports, we compare the number of stories both against the same time period the previous year, and the previous six months.

Often, we see patterns emerge over time. Some clients just seem to have more news during certain quarters - and we can see the trends as we compare coverage over different periods. Understanding these dynamics can make it easier to plan PR campaigns in slower periods, to keep coverage consistent.

We also look at the type of coverage – what percentage are standalone features about your company or your news? What percentage are stories about your competitors that include your company ? Is that number growing over time, meaning reporters are getting the message that they can’t write about the space without including you?

What types of publications are writing about your company? Are you moving into new vertical markets? Try setting a goal of getting more coverage in those industries’ publications so you can measure your success over time.

Add to this a list of online engagement goals. Are more people talking about you online? Are your stories being shared? Are people commenting on stories that include your company? Are more people visiting your website and filling out contact forms after stories appear?

And on a related note, are you getting enough opportunities to contribute guest columns and blogs, resulting in more backlinks to your site? Quality backlinks can greatly improve your site's SEO - leading far more qualified leads to find your business. More and more, we are working with clients to set backlink goals as part of our PR planning and measurement process.

Key messages

Another critical factor is whether your key messages are making it into the coverage. Your PR partner should be measuring quality, tone, and message penetration regularly. If your messages aren’t resonating and showing up in your PR coverage, maybe it is time to either (a) revamp your messaging and (b) take a look at your website, social channels and press releases to ensure that your messaging is consistent across all vehicles.

Align PR campaigns with your business goals

The number one rule of measuring your PR programs is making sure your criteria aligns with your business goals. If you want to increase visibility for your executive team, make sure you’re measuring their invitations to speak at key industry events, along with how often they are quoted in the news. If you’re looking to bolster your business internationally, you should track coverage in international publications. If you are looking to build relationships in key markets, track social engagement within those markets.

By bringing your PR team into the process – and making sure they truly are part of the team – you can ensure that they are both executing and measuring against your business goals. And that is the quickest way to see value out of your investment in a communications partner.

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