Measuring PR Success: Metrics, and How To Use Them

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In the ever-evolving realm of public relations, success is more than just a gut feeling or a pat on the back. It’s about quantifying the impact of your efforts, understanding what works, and refining your strategies accordingly. PR is famously known to be difficult to measure a direct return on investment, as many metrics are estimations or simply can’t be quantified. However, as a public relations agency, it is our responsibility to show our clients the return on their investment in our campaigns. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the art and science of measuring PR success, exploring key metrics, tools, and approaches that can help you effectively gauge the outcomes of your PR campaigns.


Set Clear Objectives and KPIs

Before we go into different metrics, it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of defining clear and measurable objectives for any PR campaign. Are you aiming to increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, enhance credibility, or boost sales? By knowing exactly what you want to achieve, you’ll have a better foundation for choosing what metrics you are going to evaluate, and the tactics you will use. For example, if website traffic is your goal, you may want to incorporate trackable UTM links in your strategy that will allow you to see exactly how many clicks came from certain articles, social media posts or influencer collaborations. If your ultimate goal is to enhance credibility, you’ll be looking more at the sentiment analysis of articles and reactions on social media. With clear objectives and plans in place, measuring success will be much easier. 


Traditional PR Metrics – and How To Measure (and Use) Them

Media Mentions and Reach

One of the most traditional yet important metrics is media mentions. This metric simply adds up the number of times your brand or campaign is mentioned in various media outlets. Additionally, assess the reach of these mentions. For digital media and broadcast / podcast mentions, look at numbers like UVM (unique viewers per month) and total viewership. For social media or influencer collaborations, look at metrics like followers and reach. Tools like Google Alerts, Mention, and Meltwater can assist in tracking your media presence. 


Web Traffic and Referral Sources

If your goal is to get more eyeballs on your brand, monitoring your website traffic can reveal the impact of PR campaigns on audience engagement. Use tools like Google Analytics to track the increase in visits, as well as the sources (social media, press releases, articles) that drive traffic to your site. In your PR efforts, incorporating trackable UTM links, promo codes or other clickable links will help you track exactly where your spikes in traffic are coming from. 


Social Media Engagement

Likes, shares, comments, and retweets are more than just vanity metrics – they indicate audience engagement and interest. Measure the level of interaction your PR content generates on social media platforms to gauge its resonance. However, keep in mind that your engagement rates may vary significantly platform to platform, and that can also tell you which demographics are resonating with your content and brand more, and help you better tailor your strategies in the future. 


Sentiment Analysis

Another great qualitative metric, sentiment analysis looks at the number of people talking about the brand, but the way that they are talking about it. Is your target audience responding positively or negatively to your social media posts? What are they saying about your latest article in Forbes?  Sentiment analysis tools can help you categorize mentions as positive, negative, or neutral, and doing an even deeper dive for specific tactics like exclusive features in magazines or in-depth social listening will help you understand public perception and make necessary adjustments.


Share of Voice

In a competitive landscape, share of voice measures your brand’s presence compared to similar competitors. Calculating this metric helps you understand your relative visibility and identify opportunities to stand out. While primarily used as a metric for paid advertising, you can use the same idea to calculate SoV for earned media, social media posts and website traffic. To calculate, you’ll divide your brand’s measures by the total market measures. However, it can be difficult to determine what the ‘total market’ measure is, especially if you’re in a large industry like ‘beauty’ or ‘fashion’. Therefore, a public relations agency might recommend to identify specific keywords and niche markets like ‘sustainable US beauty brands’ or ‘luxury boutique fashion’ will help you get a more accurate SoV in your space.  


Case Studies and Long-Term Impact

To truly see a return from your PR efforts, you need a long-term investment. Building brand awareness or improving credibility doesn’t happen overnight, so for the most accurate and comprehensive assessment of your efforts, you’ll need to look at the entire PR journey – from initial goals to final results. Include data, visuals, and testimonials to showcase the long-term impact of your PR efforts. 


Earned Media Value (EMV) or Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) 

EMV and AVE are semi-controversial metrics at every public relations agency, as they are often unreliable and the calculations publicists use to determine them vary significantly. At its core, they are used to determine the value of earned media coverage by assigning a monetary value based on similar advertisement costs in the same publications. Assigning a dollar value to media coverage might seem like a valuable metric for assessing the ROI of your PR efforts, but the metric itself is flawed and highly subjective. However, if you are new to the PR game and need to quantify your dollars spent and ROI, EMV is still often used to provide a more tangible way to showcase the value of your PR work to stakeholders.


Measuring PR success is an ongoing process that requires a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis. By employing a mix of the metrics mentioned above, you’ll gain a better understanding of your PR campaigns’ effectiveness. Remember, the key is not just to measure for the sake of it, but to use the insights gained to refine your strategies, iterate, and continually improve your PR outcomes. By partnering with the right public relations agency, they can help guide you to create the best strategies and track the success of your efforts. To learn more about PR and social media analysis, click here.