Metrics That Matter: PR Programs

By Caroline Metell

You may have heard that measuring the success of a PR program or campaign is impossible and, frankly, not even worth trying. You might have even heard people say that PR is pointless.

Well, as a PR agency, we’re here to assure you that these myths are simply not true. While it is true that some results can be hard to track since they may not leave a visible footprint, there are other ways to show success. For example, if you secure an article featuring your organization or client, it’s hard to determine how many people actually read the article, or what the direct impact is on your sales pipeline. But what we know from extensive experience is that there are ways to measure your PR programs to show success and impact.

So, how do you measure metrics for a classic, media-driven PR program? You can certainly go by the old-fashioned, number of pieces of coverage – but that isn’t always the best, or most holistic way to show success. It could lead to prioritizing quantity over quality, which can be limiting in the long run.

Measuring success starts with first defining your overarching goal. Do you want more website traffic, more social followers, a feature in a specific publication, or a feature for your CEO? Being able to answer this question is the first step in determining the metrics you need to measure to show impact. Pro-tip: you CAN have more than one answer to this question.

Once you define your goals, there are several ways to measure your PR program.

  • Outlining Target Publications. Determine which publications are big targets for your organization – it could be top-tier publications that have a lot of everyday readers, or it could be more niche trade publications that target the exact readership the client sells to. Regardless, it could take a lot of time to research and build connections with reporters from that publication to land a good story there. Setting a goal to secure a feature piece in one or two of these priority publications – and then hitting that goal – is one way to show success. This could also be a good route to go when you have a big announcement – securing a large, exclusive piece could mean more than small mentions in lesser priority publications.

  • Tracking Domain Authority. Giving publications a rating – based on factors such as size, readership, type of publication, etc. – can make your hard work in getting into tough publications seen. If you have a month where you have one really good hit in a top-tier publication, that could equate to having 10 hits in trade publications in the next month. Simply counting the number of pieces of coverage doesn’t always do coverage justice. PR pros know that no two months are the same for coverage and news, so tracking domain authority could show the ebbs and flows of the media.

  • Securing Reporter Interviews. Just because a reporter seems interested in your work or story doesn’t guarantee an article placement. Reporters are busy, publications are understaffed, and editors usually make the final call in what goes to print. But, putting in the time toward relationship building is invaluable in getting those top-tier and target media placements. Whether securing an introductory conversation, an interview to provide background information, or an email interview for a quick-turn story that gets scrapped, all these touchpoints lead to trust and dependency on your expertise, so that next time a reporter is looking for a source, they’ll email you first to jump on the phone or request written commentary.

  • Scoring Messaging Pull-Through. How your brand is presented in articles is so important. While it’s great to secure a piece of coverage, PR pros should track if any of your messaging was included within the piece. This could include things like the company tagline, discussing issues of importance to the company, or being included in a piece that relates to your offerings. This way, you can see the value of securing hits in trade publications or on well-read blogs.

  • Publishing Bylines. Reporters and editors are slammed, and oftentimes don’t have time to write a story that you pitch, even if they’re interested in it. However, many publications are open to receiving bylines on timely topics to fill the site with new content. These are great ways to score coverage rich with messaging, and to have more control over the contents and timing of the piece. Additionally, bylines oftentimes lead to inbound requests from reporters looking to write about that same topic – that you may not have thought to reach out to.

We know showing impact in PR can be tricky, but using some of these metrics can help you show the true value of a PR. One other pro tip that we’ll leave you with: social media and digital marketing are often interwoven with PR, particularly during campaigns. It’s a good idea to include some of those metrics in a holistic report. For example, good media hits can lead to engaging social posts. Many of these marketing efforts go hand in hand, so don’t be shy about showcasing this integrated approach in your metrics!