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Gini Dietrich

Measuring PR Success: Seven Metrics to Consider

By: Gini Dietrich | September 19, 2011 | 
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Last week Eric Wittke wrote a blog post on Flames on Fifth Avenue about the perception of the PR industry.

He described the answers he receives (the same we’ve all experienced) when he tells someone he’s in PR…and how irritating it is that people assume we lie or spin for a living.

And now, a new sitcom on NBC – Free Agents – isn’t helping our image (even though Molli Megasko tells me it’s hilarious).

This isn’t a new topic at Spin Sucks, but it seems that we have to continue repeating it, especially if we want the business world to take us seriously.

You see, what we do isn’t tangible. It’s easy for people to understand advertising because they can see it, touch it, feel it.

But can you see, touch, or feel a reputation? Or an avoided crisis? Or customer retention? Internally you can, but most of the people who assume we help corporations lie don’t see the tangible results.

I commented on Eric’s blog post:

We have to, have to, have to show our worth in terms of dollars and cents. The pundits who talk about awareness and impressions and sentiment have clearly never run a P&L. It makes me nuts. I run two businesses. If one of my peeps came to me and said, “We have to keep this program going because it’s creating positive sentiment, I would laugh them out of the room.”

This isn’t about sentiment and impressions and mentions. Sure, those things help with awareness. But they’re not the end all, be all.

I know there is a debate about whether or not PR can or should help with sales, directly, but I’m here to tell you, if you do not figure out how it does, you will not have a job in the future.

Following is a list of things you should be accountable for and measuring toward every day:

  • Sales
  • Lead nurturing
  • Lead generation
  • Lead conversion
  • Thought leadership
  • Web traffic
  • Brand awareness

I challenge you to create a goal for each of the seven categories above, for the next three months, and see what kind of effect you can have on the business in the last quarter of the year.

If you need help with ideas for each, leave a comment below and I’m happy to help you brainstorm. I know some of our regular commenters will help, too.

If you take this challenge and truly measure your efforts, I guarantee you’ll enter 2012 with your colleagues and peers excited about working with you next year…because you’ll have, overnight, gone from an expense to an investment.

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.

83 comments
ewittke
ewittke

Thanks for the kind words @ginidietrich!

It really, really, really makes my day when I see PR folks who realize and appreciate the business value of what they're doing. The chasm between business-sales and PR clearly needs to be tightened -- ideally, integrated. And if there's one language that can bring both business and PR together, perhaps that language would be Investment.

Business owners like yourself always bring a great perspective that gets neglected on the educational/theory side of things. It's simple: PR is a business investment in need of measurement. The last thing PR needs is to be considered an unproductive, gaudy, pointless expense.

Thanks for your insights! And don't worry, we'll find someone who disagrees with you one of these days. :)

GayleJoseph
GayleJoseph

You know, Gini, I hate to keep agreeing with you. One of these days I won't. But on this subject I do agree. To be relevant, we must justify our existence and the one true and sure way to do that is to demonstrate tangible results.

Shelley Pringle
Shelley Pringle

Boy, this one's really got me thinking about my own business and my client's, too. In Canada we have a measurement approach for publicity called MRP (won't bore you with the details) that basically measures impressions and qualitative metrics that we select with our clients' input. Many of our awards programs are asking to see the MRP results as a way of evaluating a successful program. Problem is, the MRP metrics don't include any of the 'hard' measurement you're recommending (of course, IABC and CPRS always look favourably on programs that have a real impact on a business). When MRP was launched, I embraced it completely. It gave us a consistent way of evaluating media coverage. But I know I have rested on my laurels a bit and didn't push myself to look for additional metrics that matter in the C-suite. Thanks for the nudge, Gini (by the way, still squirming at my house about that traveling eel).

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

@ginidietrich , as always, you hit on a lot of stellar points. And I'll be sharing your post at my office -- lots of folks liked the chocolate bar post :). Web traffic is one that sounds easy, but that we don't track as much as we should, often because there are so many departments with their hands in it, that it's hard to get access to all the data we need.

I would add insurance and influencing conversation to your list. Insurance meaning crisis communications. And influencing conversation meaning can you clear up misconceptions about you brand online and then change the way people talk about what you provide. That said, next step needs to be tracking how that conversation is driving your calls to action (often clickthroughs) and conversions.

Lastly, I'm considering not using the term PR anymore. It's got such a offputting connotation and people react negatively to it. Plus, what we really do is business and communications consulting. Or at least, that's what we should be doing. And as @kenmueller said, our goal should always be to move the needle for our clients. That said, I would be interested in your opinion on ambassador programs that are designed to drive WOM offline. Have you ever found a good way to position being top of mind and "recommendable?"

PoonamAgarwal
PoonamAgarwal

Hi,

I am just joined a marketing team and I would like to get help from you about how do I set metrics for each of them. Especially, for brand awareness which metrics do you put and how do you measure that?

Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

"from an expense to an investment" Luvit! Only this morning I commented on a HR blog to the effect that the prime purpose of HR is to help managers achieve better business results. Same applies to PR--we're only eight letters apart--marketing, accounting, advertising and all the other so-called "services."

My experience suggests that a major problem facing we "service specialists" is that our clients lack business focus and carefully defined and specific target markets. This is exaggerated when the service specialist doesn't realize the important of these two issues--metrics if you like.

Gini, I do apologise for being so agreeable again. Be warned. If you keep on the way you're going, you'll be as curmudgeonly as I am at my age. But that's a long time in the future........1

Continue to have fun

RegardsLeon

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Gone are the days of handing over blank checks to the PR staff without any type of accountability to show how the value of their work has added to the bottom line. The warm fuzziness of PR has morphed into the Jerry McGuire Cuba Gooding, Jr. famous quote.

I think it goes without saying that any young PR pros looking for your first job had best be able to clearly articulate how they plan to measure their ideas brought to the table in a way that translates back into the bottom line. And if you are a PR veteran looking for a career change, I wouldn't even bother walking into another agency/company without a list of tangible results via the categories @ginidietrich mentions above. If the interviewer for some outlandish reason doesn't ask you for them, then its probably not a company you may want to work for in the first place.

Viva la metrics.

RickRice
RickRice

@ginidietrich You know how much I totally agree with this. Your list is great, particularly for marketing PR programs. I need to think a bit about how to use them in corporate communications. Certainly building a good corporate reputation helps sales, but we also need measure the intangibles, public opinion polls come to mind. There are organizations that don't sell a product or service but they still need support to succeed. They need good PR and it has to be measured.

Seriously, getting over a fear of more measurement and being held accountable is critical for all areas of PR if we want more respect. Not to mention getting paid better for the results we deliver.

Tinu
Tinu

Bull's eye again, Gini. I have several alliances with PR companies for the precise reason you state.Only the first thing I do, especially with larger companies, is ask if they are working with a PR firm, and if so, why we aren't talking to each other. And if not, I find a polite way to ask why they are so stupid.

It's one thing if the company is so new or so devoid of resources that they simply can't afford it. But for any established company, not working with someone in PR is asking for trouble.

The fact is, marketing, sales, search, web traffic, reputation management - none of it should be done in a vacuum. Ever. If you can't figure out how to tell them it increases profits, show them some examples of how they'll lose money. I prefer not to use fear of loss but if you care, and they aren't listening, you have to go with what works.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

This is no different than Advertising. Johnathan Salem Baskin wrote a recent AdAge piece about CMO's getting fired left and right wondering what the main issue is for their short tenure of all C Suite. Same deal. They get away with the jargon as their performance measures. Until the CFO looks at things and says 'Really? Impressions?' 'Really? Sentiment?'

Then he says 'I don't give a flying...er Pig...about that! How are you impacting our bottom line? The COO reduced costs 5% and increased productivity 5%. The VP of Sales grew revenue by 15% and profits by 10%' What did you do? You say we had 30,000 positive mentions on the Twitter? You say we got $5 million free impressions in major news outlets? Can you prove that is worth $5mil? You can not compare that to paid advertising. We craft the message with paid advertising. News Outlets we have no control over.

Then the CFO goes to the CMO and says you go with the head of PR and have a bullshit session in the bathroom stall then come and tell us what your efforts really achieved!

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

This is exactly what I needed and the timing is even more perfect. As a young PR pro working in house at a non-profit, I find myself essentially alone to figure this all out. My goal for the next few months is to try and collaborate with the other departments and figure out our goals and how we can measure them. These 7 metrics are perfect and just where I will start. Everyone's comments have been particularly helpful as well. I'm sure I will be back with questions after I really think through this myself.

Thank you for this, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out where to start and now I can!

jackielamp
jackielamp

This is a challenge we face every day. Clients and prospects come to us wanting the exact metrics you suggest. What I have a hard time figuring out is how do you tie PR to sales, lead gen and conversion? Particularly in B2B?

The reason I think this becomes so difficult is because PR tends to be viewed as a standalone instead of another contributing part of the business. It should contribute to the overall goals that you mentioned above, right? I can't see how it's the only thing that will get you the results you want...yet some companies evaluate it as such and are quick to cut us out of the marketing budget when they haven't generated enough leads. Lack of lead gen, sales, etc. cannot be only attributed to PR...

Al Smith
Al Smith

Wow. You wrote this, Gini ? Very impressed. Seriously, wish I could afford to hire you and Erica. I am going to look at these 7 things on the list and make some goals. great comments and suggestions from everyone. Thanks.

Al

Nic_Cartwright
Nic_Cartwright

Over in my world - we only had 3 targets (it's all bigger and better over in USA!!) - cash, data (from which to mine cash), or awareness (which had better be pretty darned good - leading to data and cash) to consider before we used any meaningful resource to explore PR opportunities...... Of course, 'spare' resource can be used to create a bit of fun / or target other avenues - but not much of that about nowadays....... Players time (in sports) has not been used well historically to drive PR - but that is certainly a current 'spare capacity' resource.

Even now - with Twitter for players seeing take off - not many teams are using their resource (the players) to drive cash/data etc... And there are so many great options to do just that...

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell

Love this list. Thinking of diagramming it in a circular flow chart and taping it to my wall: "Thought Leadership --> Web Traffic --> Brand Awareness --> Lead generation --> Lead nurturing --> Lead conversion --> Sales". I could put a pin in the box as I moved around the circle -- to make sure I paid enough attention to each. (Of course, pretty soon I would have a large circular hole in my wall -- but it's a thought :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ewittke Oh there are plenty of people who disagree with me. They're just too smart to post a comment here. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@GayleJoseph Well, there is ONE thing we disagree about. And it'll be fierce disagreement this Sunday.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Shelley Pringle I know MRP... @martinwaxman talks about it a lot. It's the same as the impressions and advertising equivalency so rampant in the States. But it's great that we're all exploring other ways to measure. I've been hacking Google analytics for us and a client, in order to get the data I need. When I have it perfect, I'm going to teach people how to do it inside Spin Sucks Pro. It's pretty exciting!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@PoonamAgarwal I would definitely create landing pages that you use only in your brand awareness campaigns. Say, for instance, you have a column that you wrote for a trade publication. In that article, use a unique URL so you know how many people have come to your site from that article. If you can create a unique landing page, for that URL, that has a call-to-action (a download for a white paper or a registration for a webinar), you'll begin to generate leads

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Leon You do know we all aspire to be as curmudgeonly as you? In fact, @bdorman264 publicly admits he's trying to beat you at it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@RickRice I don't disagree with you one bit. From a corp comm perspective, there are lots of things (you mention opinion polls, for instance) we can do to measure results. Unique URLs, increases in survey results (we do this for employee comm a lot), positive stories around a crisis event, etc. While those don't generate $$ directly, they certainly save money in lost transactions because the reputation is solid.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Tinu Actually, I really like the example of showing how they'll lose money. It's easy to get people excited about how they'll make money, but they lose that excitement pretty quickly when they see how much you cost. I like showing both sides of it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@HowieG Exactly. The good CMOs are those who understand how all of this integrates, how to break down the silos, and how to hire the right people to execute the right tactics. The reason a CMO has a two-year lifespan is because most think a tactic is a strategy.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jackielamp The problem I think you face is much of what you do is publicity. It's REALLY hard to measure to these metrics with publicity. But PR is more than publicity and your clients are right in asking for it. I find B2B MUCH easier to measure than B2C because the pool is smaller and very niche'd. You can see a direct correlation.

But, if you're only using publicity, you can do something one client does. We track the number of leads inside Salesforce before a news release is distributed or a story runs. Then we track the number of leads after. We also use unique URLs so we know the traffic and leads came from that story or release.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Al Smith What do you mean I wrote this?! You think I can't write something smart?? Why I oughta!

GayleJoseph
GayleJoseph

@ginidietrich You're right. :) The next disagreement will be Christmas. Are people even permitted to disagree on that day?

bdorman264
bdorman264

@ginidietrich Piece of cake; Leon mentored me to his level and then I realized I could be much more curmudgeonly than that. Of course, that's just my competitive nature; I want to be the best regardless of what competition it is. You should see where I am in the flakiness competition..............

Tinu
Tinu

Excellent point. :) @ginidietrich I feel guilty about it sometimes because I like to frame things positively when I can, but you're right, that could be overcome by showing both sides. Reputation problems cost a LOT of money, in Google, social media, traditional press, even when they aren't true. If people would go to PR *before* they have a problem, they could head a lot of it off before it reduced sales.

jackielamp
jackielamp

@ginidietrich That's a good point, and those are good suggestions that I'm going to start using where applicable! Thank you!

Al Smith
Al Smith

@ginidietrich Ha ! You are multi-talented girlfriend. Just like messin with you. Thanks for this excellent post.

GayleJoseph
GayleJoseph

@ginidietrich My son is now in New England with the Patriots. So, I'm cheering for the Packers because those are the guys I know and love, and I'm cheering for the Pats because it's the right thing to do. Crazy.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@GayleJoseph It's OK. The Packers are a MUCH better ball team than the Bears this year. So we'll agree on Christmas Day that I'm OK with the Packers beating them. Again.

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

@ginidietrich@lisagerber I'll tell you that one of the biggest issues we run into when it comes to Web analytics is getting access to all the data we need to make informed decisions because so many different groups have their hands in it. Much harder when we don't manage the website we are driving traffic to.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JGoldsborough We typically create them because we have access to our client's CMS. I should have been a programmer. @lisagerber always jokes that I should get a promotion because of my development skills.

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