Analytics: the Sideways Approach to Measuring PRBy Shonali Burke

Do an Internet search on “measuring PR” or the “value of PR,” and you’ll find any number of blog posts and articles that purport to tell you how to do this.

Unfortunately, anything that could have been useful about them usually starts and ends with the title (this post from Chris Penn is a notable exception).

The posts will tell you why AVEs suck (d’oh).

They’ll tell you all about clipping services (double d’oh).

They’ll talk knowingly about how “strategic, proactive PR” can affect a business’ bottom line…

But stop short of giving you anything you can actually use.

Drives me crazy!

Measuring PR is Complicated

I think the problem with these posts is that they’re trying to address a pretty nuanced subject head on (also that they are often written by people who don’t actually understand what PR is, or how to approach it strategically).

If you look at how practitioners in the real world are getting smart about measuring PR, you start to realize that they’re not meeting it head on. Instead, they’re taking almost a sideways approach to it.

Sidling up to measurement—as opposed to greeting it with scales in hand—allows us to think about why we engage in PR in the first place: That there are business problems we are trying to solve (or goals we are trying to reach) through our work.

And analytics are at the heart of this approach.

Sideways Analytics

Consider this recent case study (well, it’s not a case study yet, but it is recent work), which I discussed recently with Rebekah Iliff over at the AirPR blog:

We recently wrapped a project with a client in the education space; they were launching a new online offering. Registrations were the ultimate goal, and they were using campaign tracking in Google Analytics very well. What we did was to ensure the creation of tracking links to the relevant page, so that we could attribute visits and conversions from our efforts—our strategy had a mix of earned, owned, and paid media—as accurately as possible.

Based on traffic and conversion trends, we could see what worked (social and paid) and what didn’t so much (focusing on location too narrowly as opposed to niche and interest). That allowed us to pivot our strategy midway through the campaign and put more muscle behind what was working as opposed to what wasn’t…and ultimately reach the goal.

This is what I mean by a measuring PR sideways approach.

We weren’t looking just at clips and impressions and traffic and social shares (though we also looked at all that).

Of everything we were looking at, we tracked them all consistently and noted what converted most efficiently. And that data is what we used to propose a pivot in our strategy and, ultimately, end up with a happy client.

Measuring PR Conversions

I know. You’ve heard this ad nauseam by now: Get familiar with Google Analytics, blah, blah, blah.

You’ve heard it from Gini Dietrich, you’ve heard it from me, and you’re tired of hearing it. I know.

But the point of gettin’ jiggy with analytics isn’t to become an Analytics Ninja, or whatever they’re calling them these days.

It’s to understand what is and isn’t working, adjust your strategy accordingly, and then see if you meet your goals. It’s measuring PR.

And while you can have several levels of goals, depending on how sophisticated your PR outreach is and how long you’ve been playing the game, ultimately you’ll be working towards supporting, and facilitating, efficient conversion.

If you want to learn more about PR measurement, I’ve just published my first ebook on Simple Yet Smart PR Measurement for the Rest of Us.

Here’s to 2015 being your year of conversion.

Shonali Burke

Shonali Burke, ABC, is president & CEO of a social PR consultancy that takes your business communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She also teaches at Johns Hopkins, and is the creator of the #measurePR hashtag and Twitter chats, which celebrates seven years in 2017.

View all posts by Shonali Burke