Can you truly measure PR?
The answer is somewhere in between “yes” and “no,” much to the dismay of business leaders the world over.
Sure, we’ve come a long way in recent years in terms of translating PR performance into meaningful metrics.
These days, it’s getting easier to track the ROI of our PR efforts, look beyond vanity metrics, and scale our strategies accordingly.
But that doesn’t stop the phenomenon of executives remaining laser-focused on website click-throughs from PR hits.
And if executives are unable to look beyond leads captured, and referrals, then making them understand the value of your PR efforts will be a major source of frustration.
Leads and clicks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring results.
As challenging as it may be, it is part of our jobs as PR professionals to manage expectations.
Think about it. If we don’t find the time and energy to educate them on exactly how PR is serving their best interests, who will?
Why Referrals are Just the Beginning
Let’s break down why referrals are not the end-all, be-all for PR.
This may be a major mental block among executives, but the right framing can change their mind.
For starters, assuming visitors will click through on their first encounter with a brand’s message is a dangerous game to play.
As noted by Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder at Moz, the idea that content marketing assets should result in an automatic influx of conversions is little more than a myth.
Building trust, in the form of content marketing, earned media or otherwise, requires time and consistency.
This is further driven home by marketing principles such as the rule of seven, which states our prospects require seven positive interactions with a business or brand before being inclined to take action.
This might not be what business leaders want to hear, but it is rooted in reality.
The benefits of PR go far beyond the realm of referrals when you consider bonuses such as brand awareness, sales enablement, and social proof.
Even if a byline or feature in a major publication doesn’t result in a flood of leads, the clout and exposure from such a piece can be a game-changer when reaching out to prospects.
It’s about playing the long game.
Once those positive media mentions start rolling in on a regular basis, then the referrals become much more valuable.
Breaking Down PR Metrics Beyond Referrals
Providing proof of positive results behind media mentions doesn’t have to be a headache, nor should it be.
In fact, PR professionals should have as many metrics on hand as possible to ease the minds of skeptical executives or those under the false impression that their strategy “isn’t working.”
By highlighting the success of PR campaigns without even touching referrals, presenting data points provides concrete evidence that your earned media has legs.
That’s why PR should be viewed holistically versus in a vacuum.
Given the many metrics out there and the tools available to keep track of them, consider the data points below which you can track as part of PR campaigns.
You may even do well to bring together several PR metrics using a custom dashboard.
Cyfe recently rolled out the ability to create “mashup metrics” based on data imported dynamically, in real time.
But even if you prefer to manually generate reports and share them, these PR metrics and tools will go a long way.
Organic Branded Search Volume
If branded search volume is on the uptick, you know your PR pieces are paying off from a brand awareness perspective.
With the assistance of tools such as SEMrush, you can get a bird’s eye view of where those new visitors are coming from and the percentage of new searchers interested in the brand.
Backlink Domain Authority
Scoring links as a result of a PR campaign is always a nice bonus for those looking to beef up their rankings in the SERPs.
Metrics such as domain authority, which you can easily look up using Open Site Explorer, signal sites as link-worthy and credible.
And, as you get more links from high-DA sites, your own authority begins to rise, which makes it easier to outrank competitors for relevant keywords.
Even if the majority of those links are no-follow, bear in mind that a diverse backlink profile spells good news for Google.
Share of Voice
Understanding where an executive stands in the big picture of their industry is nearly impossible without the help of an analysis tool.
Brandwatch is a smart solution for examining share of voice to understand how visibility as compared to the competition.
Potential Audience Exposure
Competition for PR hits in certain industries can be fierce.
Executives undoubtedly want to see exactly how they stack up against competition in terms of exposure, which is why tools such as SimilarWeb are invaluable to brands in cutthroat industries.
This tool can’t reveal the exact impressions that a given article page on a third-party site received, but it will tell you with best-in-class precision how many visitors the site as a whole sees in a given month.
Shout-outs on social media represent a massive form of PR currency, especially in an era where brand mentions signal authority.
Social listening tools such as Sentione can clue you in on an organization’s clout in the social sphere, including which influencers and big names in your space are picking up their story.
The right mentions can serve as social proof and help brands squeeze even more credibility out of their PR pieces.
Positive Brand Sentiment
Not all media is good.
While dominating the headlines is a solid goal, being the sort of “good guy” in the eyes of your audience is even better.
Sentiment analysis tools like those provided by Hootsuite help measure whether or not audiences see organizations in a positive light.
Track this metric over time to provide a sense of “sentiment lift” as assisted by PR.
PR Metrics Help Leaders Embrace a Holistic View of PR
It’s no secret that PR is about so much more than referrals, but imparting that wisdom to executives is easier said than done.
Teach them that referrals aren’t the holy grail of PR.
Embrace a holistic approach to your campaigns that involves measuring every aspect of a PR push versus just one.
Aggregating a variety of PR metrics beyond referrals represents a major eye-opener that proves the positive impact of your campaigns.
Doing so not only highlights your hard work but the reason why organizations should commit to PR for the long-term.
And that’s what we all want, right?