Public relations has traditionally struggled with measuring its own success. The impact earned media coverage, thought leadership campaigns, executive positioning, paid advertising and other facets of the umbrella term “PR” have on a company’s business objectives have historically come in the form of inflated impression numbers, advertising equivalency (AVE) and unique visitors per month.
It wasn’t too long ago when PR professionals were measuring the physical space in a printed newspaper to determine a story’s advertising equivalency. Nor have we fully departed from the days when PR people aggregate impressions and determine that somehow more than 1 billion people read a byline they placed in a local newspaper.
These types of inflated numbers traditionally have made PR agencies look good. Being able to showcase one’s value by demonstrating to a client that their $50,000 investment in PR yielded $200,000 in ad equivalency across all channels seems like incredible ROI and makes the case for a continued relationship. But those KPIs don’t truly measure the value and impact of PR as well as some other metrics that have been advanced by in-depth analytics tools that can scour the internet for stories, track web traffic, pull competitive analysis and more.
When we sit down with potential and current clients, one of our first questions to them is, “How do you measure success?”
For some companies, media impressions and aggregated unique monthly visitors is the metric for success, and that’s OK. Our analytics tool can easily provide that data and we can showcase the value of our work that way.
But more and more, clients are coming to understand and recognize the value that an interactive analytics tool such as Red Fan’s can provide, which extends much further beyond impressions and AVE.
After all, ad equivalency is an advertising term, and PR is not advertising. The distinction is important because justifying an investment in PR shouldn’t be argued with a phrase that starts with the word “advertising.”
When we run analytics for reporting and take them to a new business or year-end strategy meeting, we’re able to look at other metrics that can provide a much more holistic sense of a PR campaign’s impact.
Here are a few we—and our clients—like to look at:
Share of voice over time: This is the most important metric for some of Red Fan’s biggest clients, because it measures how frequently the brand is being talked about in relation to competitors. In industries populated by dozens of companies with similar products or services, this metric is crucial.
Total mentions: Different from impressions—which assumes that everyone who visited a website or picked up a newspaper actually read your story—total mentions over time allow companies to see how they’ve driven their own news cycle with announcements, organic press coverage, thought leadership and more.
PR referral from web traffic: Referral traffic measures how many people visit a company’s website after visiting a site other than a search engine and is useful for tracking potentially qualified leads. With a Google Analytics integration, our analytics platform can track this and empower marketers with even more data about their potential customers.
All of these metrics, in addition to competitive analysis, sentiment and tone analysis and more give our clients more tools to measure PR impact. It’s even more important when considering that our day-to-day contacts (usually someone from Marketing) aren’t the last people to see our analytics reports. They get passed up the chain to the C-suite, the board, investors and other key decision-makers.
That’s why having modern tools that better illustrate the full scope of PR’s impact—moving beyond monthly visitors or ad equivalencies—has become standard operating procedure here at Red Fan. We recognize that the more tools and unique insights we provide our client, the more opportunity we have to continue to make an impact, help our clients achieve their business goals and make them look good in front of their bosses, investors and other stakeholders. If you don’t have these insights, it’s time for us to talk. Give us a shout.