Last week, I participated in the Prowly annual virtual event, which consisted of five sessions over five days with 12 speakers. This is how you do a virtual event. It didn’t require people to sit at their computers all day for a week. Each session was only 30 minutes long, so it was easy for people to schedule into their days. And the content was excellent, if I do say so myself. 😂

You can access the replay even if you didn’t register for it and attend last week

The speakers were Jennifer Berson and Jennifer Moxley, who spoke about media relations, Maria Gergova-Bengtsson and Ari McDaniel about next-gen tools and skills, Monica Earle and James Hayward-Browne about data-driven storytelling, and Stephen Baker and Mark Mohammadpour about navigating difficult situations.

Raina Lazarova and I discussed PR measurement, the use of AI in measuring your effectiveness, and what the future holds. 

Which is exactly what I want to discuss today. You still will want to watch the session in replay, but I’ll give you more detail, more tips, more tools, and more things to mull over. 

The Dark Side of PR Measurement

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. It’s one of those things I’ve spent the entirety of my business working on and evolving as data and tools get more sophisticated—and more affordable. 

I’ve personally worked on it with clients to help them understand how our work contributes to their organization’s success and increases their reputation and trust, which are far more challenging to measure. 

I always say it’s the bane of our existence. You know if you have great PR, and you know if you have bad PR, but you don’t know how to measure it. Because of that, and because I hate having the “what have you done for me lately” conversation with business leaders, I continue to find new ways to prove our worth—not just for my team and me but for the industry.

To that end, the first question I got at the Prowly session was, “What is the number one challenge the industry faces when measuring results?”

The #1 PR Measurement Challenge

There are many challenges, but the top one is that much of our work is nearly impossible to measure toward the results that execs care about. This is because much of what we measure is outputs versus outcomes. We look at media sentiment and the number of stories placed; media impressions and advertising equivalencies (Thor save us all!); social media followers and the number of blog posts written. Wah wah. 

There are lots of other challenges, too:

  • Linking PR outcomes directly to sales or other key goals is not exactly easy. Unlike digital marketing, where clicks and conversions can be tracked precisely, the effects of PR, such as brand awareness, reputation enhancement, and audience engagement, are harder to quantify and directly tie to business goals.
  • The PR industry lacks universal metrics or standards for measuring success. For instance, several years ago, AMEC banned advertising equivalencies in Europe, but PR vendors in the U.S. still provide it as a metric in the reporting given to PR pros. This diversity in PR measurement approaches makes it challenging to compare results across campaigns or to benchmark against industry standards effectively.
  • PR results often include qualitative outcomes such as audience sentiment, brand reputation, and brand awareness. These outcomes are valuable but harder to measure and quantify than quantitative metrics like clickthrough rates and qualified leads.
  • The lines between marketing and PR continue to become even more blurred and often intersect, making it challenging to isolate the effectiveness of PR efforts. This integration complicates efforts.

Change Your Mindset

With all of these challenges, it’s no wonder many communicators claim they won’t measure their work or simply shy away from having the conversation. But what if I gave you one simple thing to do? 

What if, when you measured your efforts, you shifted your mindset from outputs to outcomes?

Meaning, instead of focusing on an increase in social media followers and the number of stories placed, focus on what those things result in.

For instance, I really love how CoverageImpact will take your media placements and overlay results, such as stock price increase, qualified leads generated, or new sales. You upload a CSV file of all of the stories you’ve placed and then give it the data from one of the business outcomes and it will pump out a graph that shows the correlation between your efforts and an increase in the business outcomes.

Suddenly, you’re less worried about how many stories you’ve placed and more focused on what matters: the outcomes of those efforts. 

I promise if you show there was a spike in media coverage in August and a spike in new customers during that month, an executive will tell everyone who will listen about how their PR team is contributing to the success of the business. 

AI and PR Measurement

The next question we discussed during the Prowly session was, “How can we use AI to measure the effectiveness of PR?”

I know there is a lot of hubbub about AI and it replacing us. After all, some research shows that AI will replace 7.5% of agency jobs by 2030. But that’s a small number, especially when you compare it to the percentage of people concerned about being deemed unnecessary. And it’s even smaller when considering that it includes all agencies—marketing, advertising, social, digital, and more. I’m willing to bet it’s less than 1% for communications.

Do I think it’s going to replace some jobs? Absolutely! But it won’t replace the people. Because, unless you stick your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, your work will evolve as you use it more and more. 

Now, instead of interns learning how to write in their first job, they’ll learn how to edit what the AI pumps out. They’ll use their research skills, learn how to properly attribute what they find, and figure out how to tell a story based on the draft the AI gives them. If anything, their careers will excel even faster because they’ll skip an entire step.

Let AI Analyze Your Data

So, with that out of the way and you don’t have to worry about it taking your job, let’s talk about how you use can AI for PR measurement and, while you do that, build trust with your stakeholders.

Let me give you a real-world example. A client has a pin on Pinterest that continues to perform extraordinarily well without any promotion. It just sits on Pinterest and sends all sorts of qualified traffic to their website. Every month, when we go through results together, their marketing director says, “And here is that pin again—driving most of our qualified social media referral traffic.”

We had no idea why this was happening or why it outperformed every other social network by a long shot.

So we asked AI. It provided some insights we hadn’t even considered—some incredibly simple, like the color contrasts in the photos, while others more complicated, such as offering links to buy the products showcased. But the gist was that the photo that continues outperforming all others is relatable

That isn’t technically measurable, but now that we know how to replicate its success, we can effectively drive more qualified leads from the other social media platforms, which IS measurable.

And Then Provide Insights

From here, we like to download GA4 reports into a CSV file and then uploadthem into an AI chatbot (ChatGPT, Gemini, or CoPilot). Then we prompt it to provide some answers, such as:

  • Please review these two reports and provide an analysis (hahaha, I just realized we always use the word “please).
  • Please provide trend data from these two reports.
  • Please analyze these two reports for a return on investment.
  • Please provide areas for improvement.
  • Please analyze these two reports and provide pain points our web visitors might have.
  • Please provide web pages where we can improve messaging or calls to action.

Then, when we have analyses we want to share, we can ask the AI to provide a visual representation of the findings.

This all takes as long as it took you to read those bullet points. You still want to ensure the findings are accurate and you’re not claiming something untrue, but analyzing it all takes significantly less time when you have robots helping you.

The Future of PR Measurement

The last question Raina and I covered during the Prowly session was, “What does the future of measure hold?”

I am excited about the future because the data we have at our fingertips continues to become even more sophisticated. While much of what we do currently is qualitative instead of quantitative, that will soon change. 

I also predict that we’ll soon be able to correlate brand awareness with sales by asking our AI intern to pull and analyze the data for us. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming! And yes! We will have AI interns! I already have one named Jessica Roberts (it named itself). But we will have one or two or ten and that’s exciting. And they will do all of our PR measurement bidding. Isn’t that exciting? 

Be ready for it. It’s coming…and it will be here before you know it. 

Fundamentals of Media Measurement

If you’d like to learn more about PR measurement and haven’t yet taken the (free) Fundamentals of Media Measurement taught by me and hosted by Muck Rack, definitely check it out. 

It’ll give you everything you need, including dashboards and metrics, to measure your efforts to the organization’s goals. You know. Until the AI takes over and I have to redo the entire course.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich