It’s easy to spot founders who have been burned by bad PR practitioners. Their body language communicates their suspicion (crossed arms, furrowed brows) and their questions tell their history of high-cost programs with low-value results. Most of the time, those questions focus on measurement, which is a smart place to start whenever you’re evaluating public relations and marketing programs.
HITS: How Idiots Track Success
It’s an old PR maxim that measuring hits alone doesn’t show you much about whether your investment is paying off in results that matter. Whether you’re looking at traditional media coverage or social media “vanity metrics” like ‘likes’, counting these surface-level results fails to clearly connect with strategic business goals. You landed an article in The New York Times? Awesome. What does that do for your business? Three hundred people liked your Facebook post? Congratulations. Did those people take any related action that mattered to your bottom line?
Beyond Coverage: Key Performance Indicators that Matter for PR
Before you embark on an integrated communications program – one that includes PR – consider which key performance indicators (KPIs) matter to your business and its stakeholders, including your executive team and board of directors. These might include:
- Awareness among prospects or potential partners in a key vertical market or region, or within the investor community
- Generating qualified leads to feed to the sales team
- Shaping sentiment related to competitive standing, product quality, value or customer service
Coverage is one way to fulfill these kinds of strategic business goals, as long as you can track it back to more concrete, measurable evidence. Here are some key questions to ask beyond “how much coverage did we get?”
- Can you link the dates around press coverage or social and content media campaigns to an uptick in website traffic?
- Did those website visitors move into your marketing funnel and ultimately convert in some trackable way?
- Do sales leads reference coverage, content or social media assets when they speak with your reps?
- Are your marketing and PR programs saving you money? For example, does a bump in organic search engine optimization (SEO) allow you to drop a search engine marketing (SEM) expense?
- Can you get quantitative data through surveys or customer interviews to show the value of the social capital you’re gaining through PR and marketing efforts?
Tracking Your PR Progress
None of this is to say that outputs don’t matter. As part of a broader measurement strategy, you should still be noting how many press releases you’re putting out (and why), how much coverage you’re securing (and whether it’s resonating), how many social media engagements you’re spurring (and with whom), and more.
You can also create scorecards for the coverage coming in to dig far deeper than just the number of hits. Among the elements you might note to create a “score” for each piece of coverage are things like hyperlinks to your website within an article, quotes from your executives or customers, images and the inclusion of key messages. Those numeric valuations give you a concrete way to rank something that might otherwise feel subjective to those you’re reporting to.
On the more qualitative side, analyze the demographics of your placed media coverage to make sure these audiences reflect your key buyer personas, and evaluate the feedback you’re getting from influencers. Are your messages resonating? If reporters, editors, bloggers and analysts don’t understand your value proposition, potential customers probably won’t either – and that information is invaluable to future efforts.
Regardless of the makeup of your PR or marketing program, measurement is a critical component – a manageable one, regardless of what you may have heard from questionable practitioners. Begin with a clear understanding of which KPIs matter most in reaching your strategic goals, and then map all results back to those factors.