The age-old question that has kept many a public relations practitioner up at night focuses on how to accurately measure public relations. Today, that question is even more baffling when you consider that traditional media relations has become only one aspect of PR’s scope, and an increasingly narrow aspect at that. Because the business landscape for PR has become so vast and diverse – covering social media and areas that were previously considered the domain of marketing and creative advertising – it has become increasingly difficult to accurately measure and evaluate the contribution of public relations.
PR continues to bring considerable value to an organization. An article that appeared in Forbeson PR ROI noted that, “in today’s socially connected world, public relations is more important than ever before. A simple tweet from the right Kardashian could be worth more than your entire ad budget. Consumers are looking up your business online, reading reviews, tweeting about products and crowdsourcing their experiences with your brand.”
With deference to this much broader scope of public relations, it is time to move beyond the standard Advertising Value Equivalent (AVR) measurement that has been the protocol for measuring PR for years, and develop a new standard of measurement. The question though, is what should that new standard be?
While the industry is working on developing new measurement standards, it might help to take the following into consideration when determining how best to measure the results of your PR activities:
- Utilize big data to identify insights that can inform strategy. Smart investments in sharper insight development upfront, and measuring the impact of critical behavior change through a campaign can save money on activities that may be executed beautifully but lack relevant messaging.
- Consider an emerging measurement model known as Valid Metrics Framework (VMF) – this model takes the form of a matrix that uses outputs, inputs and outcomes as the framework for determining what needs to be measured and identifying the tools required to obtain the data. The VMF can be adapted to most campaigns and can show how PR goes beyond how many people are talking about you. Instead, it determines the behavior change being driven.
- Consider key message pick-up and amplification, and how a company fares against its competitor(s). By assigning comparative values to the competitor, you can better measure the effectiveness of your PR efforts.
With regard to social media – don’t measure ROI for social media like you do for traditional media. Measure social media ROI independently of other communications channels but apply the same standards to both. Also:
- Focus on business goals; shift social media measurement metrics from “activity” metrics to “value”.
- Social media measurement must be holistic or else it won’t capture the impact of interactions.
- In the social media world, people share and amplify the impact of other media and as such, a value should be attached to this.
While people still use traffic and page views to measure social media, consider criteria such as keywords, bounce rates, time spent on site, pages per visit and repeat visitors. These will provide better indications of audience engagement.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, don’t be wholly focused on the ROI of PR.
PR hits are never guaranteed. When you do get a hit, the ROI for brand affinity will most likely fall outside traditional dollar-for-dollar measurement criteria. Particularly with the explosive growth of social media, it’s important to realize that PR results are about more than just metrics. They’re about:
- Building a strong identity for your brand
- Keeping your competitors out of the spotlight
- Forming and maintaining significant and valuable relationships with thought leaders, image makers, the media and more
- Reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message, and
- Asking your customers to tell your story.
While these might seem like more intangible than specific metrics, they are certainly essential for a company’s success.