How To Measure Whether Your PR Program Is Really Working

Is your PR program working, or are you spending too much for little return? These tips and tools can help you get the most for your money.
August 19, 2013

A common complaint among business owners and leaders is, "I spent all this money on PR and it didn't work." In fact, Geoffrey James says in a recent article, "I know people who are paying as much as $10,000 a month to a PR firm and getting very little out of it. And that's sad, because PR—getting positive media coverage—isn't all that difficult."

But here's the thing: PR isn’t just about getting positive media coverage. If you’re spending $10,000 a month and “getting very little out of it,” there are a few things going wrong.

  1. Your PR firm consists of publicists, and their only job is to secure media interviews.
  2. You haven’t given it enough time. Publications have lead times. Even blogs have lead times.
  3. Your firm hasn’t helped set the right expectations.
  4. Your firm has set the right expectations, but you’re unrealistic about it.
  5. Your firm doesn’t know how to measure its effectiveness to real business results.
  6. Your firm isn’t integrating communications into its publicity efforts. For $10,000 a month, you should be getting more than media relations.

So how do you know if your PR program is working? There are both soft and data-driven metrics to help you determine the return-on-investment.

Soft Metrics

The soft metrics are the art part of a PR campaign. They're what make you feel good. You know intuitively they are working, but you don't have real numbers to prove it. They include things such as:

  • Media impressions
  • Advertising equivalency
  • Visitors
  • Unique visitors
  • Page views
  • Subscribers
  • Bounce rates
  • Fans, followers, viewers
  • Social shares
  • Sentiment

We know, for instance, it sure feels good to have lots of Facebook fans or Twitter followers or YouTube viewers. It feels good to watch our monthly traffic continually increase. It feels good to have people sharing our stuff and saying nice things about us. But what does it really mean? These things lead to brand awareness, credibility, even perceived market share. All very important in growing a business. All very, very hard to measure. That said, you can use tools such as Google Analytics, Squeeze, Talkwalker Alerts, a paid monitoring program such as Sysomos, and Hootsuite to help you track all these things, as well as how well your content does, what the industry is talking about and doing, and what your competitors are doing.

Data-Driven Metrics

That leads us to the data-driven metrics. It's very difficult for a media relations program—alone—to track back to business results. That said, there is a new tool available to PR professionals that helps them determine the return-on-investment of their work. The tool is Iris Public Relations Management and it tracks everything they do for you, from a media relations perspective: pitches, speaking engagements, awards submissions and events. As a business leader working with a PR professional or team, you can require they track their efforts in this way. They should also be integrating media relations efforts with owned and shared media, which includes email marketing and lead generation. If they do that, the following metrics are visible and accountable:

  • Increased revenue
  • Shortened sales cycle
  • Improved margins
  • Big data

With the integrated of the three media types (and even throwing in some paid media if they have the expertise), they absolutely can help you increase your sales, shorten your sales cycle, improve margins particularly for their piece of the pie, and use Big Data to help you better understand what your customers and prospects are doing out there in the world and how they want to be communicated with. Give your PR professionals access to the information and software they need to be successful. This includes customer relationship management, monitoring, analytics, and even your P&L and balance sheets. If you're not comfortable with full financial transparency, give them a financial goal to reach over which they have full control. When you empower them to help you reach your goals, you'll no longer feel that you've spent a ton of money and have nothing to show for it.


For more insights on how one company turns trending data into actionable pitches, access our exclusive video series, A Data Driven Approach to PR.


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