Say you have hit a PR home run and a reporter writes a very favorable article about your brand and your flagship product in The New York Times. You get the actual article framed. Mom calls and congratulates you. You receive thousands of extra hits and calls about your product. People you haven’t heard from in years reach out to you on Facebook. But how do you measure the actual impact of this sizable piece of publicity?
There’s little question that strategic, proactive PR can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line but quantifying that exactly is where things can get murky. Some PR agencies will tell you they can give you an exact value the publicity is worth. Some firms will employ The Barcelona Principles. Some firms will measure how much publicity value your hit is worth based on the advertising costs for the outlet. The latter is becoming increasingly outdated and unreliable. You’re comparing apples and oranges, since people pay much more attention to editorial content than ads. And now with online advertising, finding the “ad value” of online hits or reviews by social media influencers isn’t available or even applicable.
The truth? PR doesn’t lend itself to exact measurement, unlike traceable advertising, social media or other marketing initiatives. For example, when you run a click-through ad campaign with a code offer, you know how many people saw it, how many clicked on it and how many people used the code and purchased. It’s all measurable at the conclusion of the campaign. PR is less neat and tidy. And how you choose to evaluate your PR campaign can be as versatile as your own PR goals.
Here at Crier, we always estimate the total impressions a story made based on the circulation of the publication or the visitors per month of the online outlet to get an estimate of our reach. You can also track your personal site traffic and call volume compared to the same time last year, measure targeted keyword searches for your brand, or use real-time tracking through Vocus, NUVI, or Google Analytics. You can do extensive customer surveying to find out where exactly new leads are coming from. Or you can opt to do a pre and post PR analysis and see what changed for your business thanks to your PR campaign.
To make things even more individualized to your brand, you could score each hit using a custom messaging index to further break down how successful a placement was. Each hit inspires a series of questions: How many times did the article mention your brand? What was the overall sentiment? Did the outlet include an image or video? Was there a quote from a company representative? Was your website mentioned? Then you can estimate an overall score.
Ultimately all of these approaches can help provide a sketch of how PR is working for you, but they can never paint the full picture. It all depends on your goals and what you set out to achieve. It’s not “one-size-fits-all,” but that’s what separates PR from other marketing disciplines—and in the experience of most PR pros, makes it a far superior tool.