Gini Dietrich

How to Measure PR: Use These Tools

By: Gini Dietrich | May 6, 2013 | 

How to Measure PR: Use These ToolsI love it when big conferences are held in Chicago because I get to see all of my friends without having to get on a plane…and I get to sleep in my own bed.

This past weekend was SOBCon, the mastermind of Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker St. Marie, and lots of friends – old and new – were here to participate.

On Saturday night, I met some friends for dinner at Michael Jordan’s new restaurant (which, even for a vegetarian, was super yummy and the service was superb) and we sat down to talk about the realness (or lack thereof) of social media “experts,” the marketing industry as a whole, and whether or not PR firms are really worth their salt.

You see, I am told many times, when I tell a new acquaintance what I do for a living, that the person has worked with PR firms in the past and they haven’t gotten their money’s worth.

They’ll say, “Oh yeah. I know it’s hard to measure PR” and they’ll roll their eyes.

I mean, I hear this a lot. I usually just shake my head and say something such as, “Yeah, I hear that a lot” and the conversation moves on.

Clients Want Results

But I think it’s worth discussing here because, a few days ago, Abbie Fink sent me an article titled, “Your startup’s PR strategy might be crusty and outdated.”

In it, the author – John Hall, the CEO of Digital Talent Agents – wrote:

In the past, public relations required a client to pay a large retainer in order to be mentioned in a sidebar or get quick features published, promoting a service or product. Today, PR is online, and it includes a combination of content marketing, search engine optimization, and thought leadership. Times are changing, and there are some things you should take into consideration when you’re making decisions about your startup’s PR.

People want to see results

In the past, PR companies weren’t held to meeting specific client expectations. They could always hide behind saying, “How do you measure credibility and authority?” Clients consistently felt screwed over by PR companies because they were paying a sizable retainer without any way to gauge the results.

But this isn’t just for a startup’s PR. This is for any PR firm working with a client.

Measure PR

We have to measure PR results to business goals.

The article goes on to say you can measure your efforts with tools such as  Google analytics,DoubleClick Ad PlannerWhoReTweetedMe, and Klout, but I’d take it one step further.

Yes, Google analytics is a starting point, but that’s all it is. (I’m not sure the other tools he mentions do anything more than “measure” brand awareness…and don’t really help the case.)

From there, you have to combine the data you get in there with a client’s customer relationship management software, their email marketing software, and their ecommerce software. Without access to all of those things, you are only scratching the surface.

An Example

Let me give you an example.

We have a client who uses Hubspot and Mailchimp for lead generation and email, respectively.

They have a pretty robust content program that includes monthly webinars at the top of the funnel, white papers and eBooks at the middle of the funnel, and a free trial at the bottom of the funnel.

Our goal, of course, is to use content to get people into the free trial. From there, they know exactly how far through the trial a person has to go before they become a customer and their email marketing helps motivate them to that level.

We measure PR in a few ways:

  • Organic search increases
  • Unique visitors to the website
  • Unique visitors to the blog
  • Top of the funnel leads
  • Free trial landing page visits
  • Free trial users
  • Trials converted to customers
  • Monthly recurring revenue (subscription-based)
  • New revenue

All of this data can be found by combining analytics, Hubspot, and Mailchimp into a spreadsheet we review weekly. We do not track Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube viewers, or Klout scores.

These are both soft and hard metrics, but they lead to the ultimate goal: More customers.

In this example, we know exactly how many people we need to get to the free trial landing page – through content – in order to get them to take it and then what kinds of content – through email – we need to send them so they’ll convert to a customer.

It becomes science and math, combined with art, and it works really, really well.

Become a Partner

What this does is creates an opportunity for us to be partners with our clients. They trust us to not only give us access to their data, but also to help them achieve their goals.

And it also holds us completely accountable to the results that really matter to a business leader, owner, or entrepreneur.

We know every week whether or not something is working and can make tweaks or change paths, if necessary. We also are testing a pay-for-performance/retainer hybrid model with this particular client. I’ll let you know by year’s end how it worked.

I agree with John Hall clients want results, but the way we measure them go a step further than he took it in his article.

What do you think?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • This gives me so many ideas…great post Gini, as always.

    • katskrieger I like it when I give you ideas!

      • ginidietrich katskrieger Always! Besides reading your tips is way better than the task I am currently procrastinating on….packing my desk to move to the other side of the office. And taking photos of receipts to send to Concur.

        • katskrieger LOL! Yeah…reading sounds way more enjoyable.

        • ginidietrich katskrieger In all seriousness, this definitely give me some more places to look for good data. Doing a lot of the right things, but I think I need to pull into one big spreadsheet.

        • katskrieger A lot of what we pull is from Hubspot. If you need help, let me know.

        • ginidietrich Gini, I’d love to hear more about how you are using Hubspot — and how you are tracking this for clients who DON’T use Hubspot. Likely more than fits in a comment though…

        • blfarris That’ll cost you a bottle of wine!

        • ginidietrich Deal! I hope you like Red.

        • blfarris I do, indeed!

  • Sheeesh, why don’t you just marry Michael Jordan already.

    • belllindsay He just got married or I would!

      • ginidietrich belllindsay He is adorable.

        • KateFinley ginidietrich belllindsay He’s married to a chick named Yvette…I think she has a great name 😉

  • I heart this post for so many reasons! Let me count the ways …
    1. You don’t measure success by fans/likes/follows.
    2. You’ve just given me a couple more ideas on how I can measure PR back to results.
    3. Performance-based retainers … I want to know more about how you are attempting this.

    • KateFinley I’ll fill you in on number three, Kate. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re attempting it. Right now what we’re doing is a break even retainer – this is how much it costs to have my tam work with you without any incentives – and then anything we achieve above the set goals we get a bonus.

      • ginidietrich KateFinley I was trying to think about how I would adapt that model if I decided to go that route and the basic retainer + bonus makes complete sense. Really looking forward to seeing how this works. Curious about how the bonuses breakdown per team member, etc. Very cool! Thanks!

        • KateFinley The bonus goes into the entire pool for the company because we’re small that nearly everyone is involved. That said, we haven’t actually achieved the bonus yet so we’ll see.

  • <i>We do not track Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube viewers, or Klout scores.</i> I have an ongoing conversation with some people about whether there is value in tracking any of those items and how to do it.
    Some people are determined to try to find a way to match dollars against every possible metric they can find. I am not convinced it can be done.
    The rest of the metrics you mention also tie into having clients who are willing to share data with you in a timely fashion.
    I think one of the things we need to do is make sure we create a “course” that educates our clients about analytics and what they should be measuring. Ultimately it is of benefit to both sides.

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes ginidietrich I almost said “phewww” out loud when I read that first sentence you quoted from the post. I started, and still “manage”, Facebook and Twitter for our college, and despite touting the greater value of engagement over Likes, etc., others keep focusing on numbers, especially even ones ending in 0. Those are apparently sacred in some cultures.

      • Word Ninja Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes It’s because people understand numbers. What they don’t understand is what is behind them. Imagine having 20,000 Facebook fans with no engagement and no sales or 200 Facebook fans with 90 percent engagement and lots of sales. The executives will almost always focus on the fact that your Facebook fan base isn’t growing. Which is dumb, but that’s human nature.

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes It’s a deal breaker for us if the client won’t share their data and analytics. It’s only happened once and we walked away from the deal because of it.
      I agree we need to educate clients too, but that’s up to us to do it. If we continue to measure media impressions and advertising equivalencies and fans/followers/likes, they’ll continue to be frustrated they’re throwing money into the wind.

  • I like Klout, I got an Egg(white) McMuffin this week from them…
    I guess it depends on the industry you are working with but I see it as similar to what we do when we ‘sell’ safety and risk management; if you don’t have buy-in or support from the customer and they expect us to do all the heavy lifting, it probably won’t succeed. I’m guessing if someone hires a PR firm, then there are certain things they should be willing to commit to as well. 
    I wish we had a PR person or firm again. The majority of our efforts drill down to an individual basis and how much we are willing to get out there and be the face of @LanierUpshaw. For us, it’s all about creating opportunities and I feel with the right support it could be a win-win for us. 
    Please don’t go away; I won’t have anyone to play with then…:(

    • bdorman264 Did you really get an Egg McMuffin?! I never get anything! <pout!>
      You’re absolutely correct in that there has to be some heavy lifting on the part of the client. We can’t work in a vacuum. That’s why chemistry is so important, as well. If you like the people, you’re more willing to do the work.

      • ginidietrich bdorman264 I got some Captain Highliner fish. 🙂

  • John_Trader1

    You talking about accountability gives me goose bumps. How can anyone in modern PR expect to be taken seriously without the means to demonstrate the work they do translates into meaningful results (i.e. – what their efforts mean to the bottom line)? I really like the concept of tying in analytics, CRM, lead gen, and email platform results into a spreadsheet. Brilliant. 
    This post has sparked some ideas then I want to experiment with. Thanks!

    • John_Trader1 Oh … you’d be surprised. I’m shocked every time I talk with a group of highly intelligent PR professionals. Shocked.

  • Love how you spelled this out, Gini. Magic happens when you go this route and become a true PR/Markeing PARTNER. Not only are you held accountable for the results, but you also considered part of the team and given the access you need to make this happen.
    I think the challenge is that while so many businesses bemoan that “PR doesn’t get results”, those same companies just want to see their name in lights. Going with this approach takes a shift in business mindset – from both the agency and the client. This approach isn’t going to give you success overnight, you’ll be far better off in the longrun if you follow this concept.

    • lauraclick When I did my keynote last week, I talked about that very thing. How when, in 2010, we said we were no longer a PR firm, the conversation changed. In fact, a client whom we adore just asked us to consider doing a solo media relations program for one of their new projects. We turned it down because we can’t guarantee results and because you can’t measure those results. I think they were a little surprised, but told me at least four times they respect our candidness.

      • ginidietrich Ok – I’ve been chewing on this comment ever since you posted it!  I think it’s great that you’re standing your ground and only taking on clients and projects that go down this path. That totally makes sense to me and is certainly ideal. Heck, I may need to start saying “no” to more short-term projects so I can better focus on clients who want to focus on longterm success.
        Yet, there are some projects – worthy projects even – that can’t tie neatly back to metrics. While they might have an impact (a re-brand, for example), it’s hard to know exactly what kind of impact it may have. So, does that mean those projects shouldn’t take place because they can’t be measured?  Truly, some projects that can’t be measured shouldn’t happen, or, at least shouldn’t be the top priority. But, I’m just wondering aloud for those clients (and for us firms too) about how to handle these projects. I suppose, perhaps, it’s more about how projects fit into the big picture and the ability to achieve overall goals, yes? Thoughts? Get where I’m going with this?
        Sorry for the long comment, but you really got me thinking!

        • lauraclick I do see where you’re going with this. I think it’s up to you to decide if you want to pursue it…and if the client is willing to take some risk. For us, we’re too small and I’m too vocal about data-driven results to take that risk. That, and we no longer have anyone here (besides me) who has media relations expertise. So I’d have to hire someone, which is an entirely different conversation.

        • ginidietrich lauraclick dealing with this right now as Gini knows. A client I am trying to close has seen plenty of my ideas and tactics and strategies and was asking to just pay me and ‘do social media’. But I insisted on a proposal that clearly lays everything out. Some of the work is technically unmeasurable on the branding side. Most is in various ways. But they have to give me resources and support. If they don’t they can’t say ‘well you didn’t achieve what we expected’. So I need them to give me analytics access, fix website issues like the crappy blog platform, and let me work with their employees and franchises to create content and draw in their existing clients/customers to be part of their community. 
          I think I shocked them into realizing how much of a long term investment this is going to be to succeed.

        • ginidietrich Wow – you’re the only one with media relations experience?! Crazy. These times, they are a changin’. 
          As to the point about staff – I totally get that. As the one-woman-band (at the moment), it’s easier to say yes when you have the skills yourself. But, this certainly has me thinking about where I’m taking things moving forward. I’ve always said that it’s important to say “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to the things that matter. I just need to be better at doing it – and this might be one of those things that fall in that category!
          Thanks for making me think and the great conversation too! 🙂

        • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich Yup. Totally. A lot of the work I’m doing for clients right now is out the foundational level (strategy, branding, web design, etc.) Those things have to happen first BEFORE you can start getting into social media. I never just DO social media for clients. Never Ever. But, that’s a whole other conversation entirely!

  • JodiEchakowitz

    I love that over the past few years, we have been able to come to the table and talk about measurement *and* PR in the same conversation. It’s great being able to show our clients what kind of impact we are making through the integrated communications/marketing programs we implement. 
    I also think that the Barcelona Principles are finally helping to shift the thinking of the PR community. I came across this study which shows that there is some progress in our industry, and hopefully that will continue ( It is sad though to see that some PR folks are still using AVEs (cringe!!) as a measurement metric, but over time, hopefully that percentage will reduce.

    • JodiEchakowitz I’ve spent A LOT of time digging into why people are not moving toward the Barcelona Principles and why they still use AVEs. It’s because their clients and bosses require it. And we all have only 24 hours in the day so, unless you’re REALLY passionate about finding a different way of doing things, you’re not going to spend the non-work hours that are required to do it. So, until the industry can come up with a set way to view metrics and measure efforts, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

  • All for just $19.99!
    What drives me bonkers is what measurement services do measure. Because often they have no real bearing on telling whether results were good or bad. Really we laid out for folks Ms ginidietrich 

    Who is Michael Jordan is he the one who is the chef that yells at people?

    • Howie Goldfarb It’s a good thing I know you as well as I do because I’d hate for that question to be real.

  • Definitely enjoyed reading this post.  PR is changing so much as everything moves 1000x faster with things published online.
    Marketing and PR are so mashed up now.  They’re definitely not independent.  You have to think about PR in the context of marketing the product/service as a whole, while also remembering how the PR strategy will work within the marketing outreach.  At least, that’s how Grasshopper views it.  We look at PR as a tool of marketing and it drives our word-of-mouth.  I share a lot of similar beliefs about PR that John does.  Keep it personal, and just tell awesome stories that people want to read about.  Done and done.

    • tayloraldredge I like how this grasshopper views it! And I agree.

    • tayloraldredge Oh sorry. Now I realize it should be capitalized Grasshopper.

  • susancellura

    Thank you for laying the details out, Gini. It’s interesting, because last week I had a colleague tell me that an intern wants to learn more about PR and communications. I immediate reaction was, “number one, don’t use the term PR’.

    • susancellura If we just said communications, we’d get rid of a lot of the typical spin doctor responses.

  • Isn’t the key to layout ahead of time clear expectations and KPIs? Wouldn’t that solve some headaches?

    • ClayMorgan It would IF the client either doesn’t already think media impressions and AVEs are the end all, be all. In most cases, though, you have to slowly educate them on what really matters and how it’s measured. And it’s pretty fluid so you have to stay ahead of it.

  • “We do not track Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube viewers, or Klout scores.” This can not be said enough.  I think there is a general misconception when it comes to this type of metric. The only thing social, I measure is click-throughs and conversion rate. 
    I also really like your breakdown of the funnel process. I’ve been trying to explain this process to a client for several months now, (they take forever to approve anything). The CEO doesn’t see the value in webinars, he prefers face to face interactions.Hopefully I can convince him that one step leads to another.

    • stevenmcoyle I remember the days when I didn’t believe in using the Internet to build my business, too. Then a very good friend said to me, “Wouldn’t you rather meet 100 people ‘face-to-face’ at once than do one at a time?” Um. Yes.

  • Is it too basic to “ask at the door”? We ask virtually every customer how they heard of us!

    • jdrobertson I don’t think it is, but you can’t always ask that, particularly if your customers are tens of thousands. You ask it, but not everyone tells you. Or they say, “Oh a friend told me” when really they saw an ad.

  • rustyspeidel

    This assumes you are driving all traffic to the digital platforms that start the funnel, yes? So all the social platforms you use are driving to web-hosted content that’s all part of that “pretty robust content marketing program?”

    • rustyspeidel We actually don’t use social in this example….so no. But yes, it could be in some cases.

  • I’m confused. I thought you just wrote press releases. 🙂

    • Adam | Customer Experience I’m shaking my fist at you right now!

  • I just about choked on my chicken sandwich. Klout as a measure of success? Thanks Gini for highlighting the metrics that matter.

    • ThePRCoach Well, we can’t win them all. Yet.

  • Like it a lot. Keep banging the drum . I know you were having fun in Paris at the time, but your star colleague, allenmireles did highlight why “measurement is huge” and how “Inkybee Measures Your Campaigns” using a Google Analytics plug-in, so we’re right with you.

    • HughAnderson Yep! I read all of the blog posts before I left so I saw it!

  • I was all set to read something about measurement and feel ashamed that I totally suck in comparison to @Shonali, for example. 
    When I read about the digital marketing with HubSpot, that’s the cool stuff. I’m in HubSpot school right now. As a PR person, the content marketing, is eazy peazy lemon squeezy. It’s the other CTAs, designing the tech to match the content, keeping it fresh, continuously working for myself which is unusually uncomfortable. 
    As a PR person for a REALLY REALLY long time (I’m ancient), the best thing I can say to this whole entire community is that PR is no longer PR. If you think it is, you’re lost and failing. PR is digital marketing, social marketing, marketing, content marketing…oh, yeah, did I say marketing?

    • Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing You’re so funny! I always say, “I’m going to tell this story and it’s going to make me sound old, but I really started my career when I was 12.”

  • Fantastic to see an actual case study rather than an “expert” pontificating. If you would allow me as a Brit one observation, it’s said that Americans are fantastic at business but are too eager to get to the bottom line. Yes, PR can be used as a marketing tool to support sales in commercial environments as in your brilliant example, but it is bigger than that. It can do more for commercial and non-commercial organisations where the goals are not directly sales-related and the bottom line is not measured in dollars or pounds sterling. This is where PR can make a massive contribution far deeper than “scratching the surface” even when the client doesn’t have (or hasn’t perhaps even heard of) CRM or e-commerce software. Thanks for a great post.

    • hopwood I 100% agree with you, which is why I mention this should be used in combination with the “soft metrics.” The problem, of course, is (at least in the U.S.) chief executives don’t care about brand awareness if it’s not affecting sales. And…thank you for the compliment!

  • Pingback: Make Today’s PR Better With Meaningful Metrics | The Measurement Minute()

  • Pingback: Choosing a PR Agency: Ten Questions to Ask About Media Relations by @kateupdates Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: How the Economy Affects PR...and Your Job Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: How to Dodge the Dreaded Question “What are you doing for me?” | The Agency Post()