How Do You Measure PR Results?

PR measurement has come a long way in the last decade, but it’s still a topic that is tough for clients and agencies alike to wrap their heads around.

On one hand, with Google Analytics, landing pages, custom URLs and all the other tools at our disposal, measuring the impact of PR has never been easier.

Gone are the days where we start the day with a stack of newspapers and scissors, cutting out our clients’ coverage and relying on the media outlets’ published circulation numbers to give us a rough indication of how many people we’ve reached.

Measure PR Results

Now, we can easily see how many people clicked a link in an article, visited your website and signed up for your email list.

On the other, I’d argue that we’re missing the forest for the trees when we measure PR in traffic and leads alone.

Public relations is meant to influence public perception.

More people knowing your company exists, connecting with your message, and seeing you as a leader in your field absolutely drives traffic and sales.

But traffic and sales are a by-product of a successful PR campaign, not the main objective. Clicks to your website are one way we can measure what’s happening in the public realm. But they’re not the only way, and for many organizations they’re not the most important.

Let me give you a few examples.

A public speaker might launch a PR campaign with the goal of commanding a higher speaking fee. Typically, a speaker’s fee is tied to the level of fame and influence she has in her field. So getting media placements in outlets that matter to her community is one way to up level public perception around a speaker’s work.

An entrepreneur might launch a PR campaign to help sell her book concept. In our talks with book agents, we’ve seen that media coverage of your ideas is an important part of the proposal. Publishers want to see that your ideas have been published in the media, whether it’s through quotes, contributions or TV or radio spots.

A lot of our agency’s work is with this audience — people who are shopping their book proposals around and need to show more traction for their ideas.

A nonprofit might launch a PR campaign to oppose a measure before city council. This kind of PR, called public affairs, is where I got my start and what I’d love my agency to do more of now. Local media campaigns can turn the tide of community opinion and have a real influence in everything from legislation to support for services in communities.

The measure of a public affairs campaign is, “Did the legislation pass?” or “Has public opinion turned in our favor?”

A business that operates solely online might launch a PR campaign to increase the trustworthiness of its products. There are a lot of advantages to online businesses, but the trust factor can be an obstacle, especially when you’re starting out.

Just like customer testimonials, media coverage lends your business credibility and authority.

It tells your audience, “You can trust her, because we do.” On a similar vein, adding an “As Seen In” section to your sales pages is great for conversion.

In all of these examples, you can see how traffic and leads might be secondary effects of a media campaign, but they’re not the primary goal. On top of any short-term traffic bump, you’ll most likely see a boost to your Search Engine Optimization, which is a big focus of our firm’s PR campaigns.

I tend to think of it this way.

If your goal is to get a lot of traffic fast, you’re probably going to get more traction with a combination of content marketing and paid lead generation (Facebook advertising, for example).

If your goal is to be perceived as a leader or to reach as many people as possible with your message, PR is a good investment, either in your time (I recommend one pitch a week for most small organizations), or by hiring an agency like mine to run a 6-month or year-long program for you.

And yes, you’ll get some traffic, leads and SEO benefits as well.