We all know PR has value. But what’s the best way to measure it?
This was the topic tackled by PRWeek in their Breakfast Briefing which was focused on measuring the true value of PR. Hosted by Barry Leggetter, CEO of AMEC, the event invited speakers from across the industry to share case studies and learnings to help eliminate the notion that PR reporting is “fluffy.”
Much of PR’s impact isn’t always tangible or immediate. So, it’s really no surprise that one out of three marketing and communications professionals can’t accurately measure the impact of their PR efforts. Compared to advertising and media buying, PR measurement is way behind. Consequently, many PR professionals find themselves trying to prove their worth and justify PR spend without any of the actual data that their clients or business leaders demand.
Here are our top takeaways from the event.
Put AVE in the bin
There was once a time when PR professionals literally broke out a ruler and measured the size and space of a piece of coverage. They would then use that information to measure the equivalent advertising value of that space. While we’re generally moving away from this practice, many PR agencies continue to report AVE, or Advertising Value Equivalency, as an easy way to show how much value you can get from PR. And why wouldn’t we? AVE makes a PR agency or team look great. Reporting that you achieved coverage with an AVE of £8m, on a budget of £5,000 is a pretty hard data point to give up.
However, the argument against AVE is that PR is not advertising and therefore it should not be compared. It’s far too basic a measurement that does not consider things like tone and influence – some hallmarks of great PR.
While some clients and businesses will still demand AVE for its simplicity and wow-factor, the model of the future must be able to analyse the depth, resonance, influence and impact of PR coverage.
Invest in proper measurement tools
So, how exactly do we measure these all-important metrics? The first step is to decide on the metrics that matter. These must be determined in advance of a campaign and should be directly tied to the objectives. When you look for a consensus on how to measure PR, the metrics are vast: CTR, visibility, downloads, links, open rate, revenue, attendance, share of voice, the list goes on. The important part is to decide on your metrics that matter for your campaign from the onset.
If you can, collaborate with other channels to accurately report on your key metrics. For example, work with your in-house IT team or PPC agency to see if your PR campaign has had an impact on search or organic website traffic. Set up vanity URLs tied to your campaigns to measure traffic spikes or create custom links to track sales.
Out of your depth? Take a course or hire an expert to help you set up tools and dashboards to track your campaign.
Report on Impact
Data is good. But insights are better. As an industry, PR professionals are very good at talking about what we’ve done, but we’re very bad at talking about the impact of PR. While impressions and coverage books will always have their place, the best PR professionals are measuring their success in terms of outcomes and impact.
When it comes to measuring PR, there are three key areas to report on:
- Input: This is summary of what you did (issued a press release, hosted 10 media interviews, etc.)
- Output: This is your coverage book, including volume, sentiment and reach. This is the point where most PR professionals stop and say, job done. While it’s satisfying to drop a thick book of coverage on your client’s desk, it doesn’t really show the value of that work.
- Outcomes: This is the true value of PR. This is where you show the impact of what you’ve done. So you may have achieved 47 pieces of coverage, but has the sentiment around your brand changed as a result? What’s different now? Understand how data relates to each other. CTR is just a number, but if you can relate that to a shift in reputation, you’ve illustrated impact.
Unfortunately, there is no holy grail, and some measures of PR will always remain elusive. Things like journalist relationships, stopping bad press or getting a headline changed cannot be measured quantitatively. These certainly have value, but impact measurements are the model of the future.
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