PR Metrics Don't Have to Be ScaryHappy Halloween!

It’s been a fun-filled month of taking some things that are a bit overwhelming and making them less scary for you.

We’ve focused on:

Today, we’ll wrap up the series by taking the scary out of PR metrics and performance.

PR Metrics Are Not Math

When I speak to groups of communicators, one of my favorite things to ask is:

How many of you went into PR because you hate math?

Inevitably, 95 percent of the room raises their hands.

I know. I know. Math stinks.

But PR metrics are not math.

Think about it as data.

And you can use data to tell a story.

You’re already a great storyteller. Now you can use numbers to help you tell a results-driven story.

The only way the PESO model can give PR pros a seat at the executive table is to measure, measure, measure.

Even though we tend to be right-brainers who don’t like numbers, there is absolutely no running away from PR metrics.

Without measuring your PESO activities’ effectiveness, you don’t know where to focus.

  • Which topics are truly engaging your audience?
  • Which channels drive the most traffic?
  • What publications are bombing with our audience?

These are all answers only data can give you.

If you want PR to be seen as a relevant, valuable partner in driving business results—instead of a fluffy nice-to-have budget expense item, you have to get over that.

Sharing business results—such as how many leads your PR programs drove—increases the esteem your colleagues have for the work you do.

In time, you may even come to find it to be invigorating and inspiring to be able to see how that work is driving business results.

Get Over Analysis Paralysis

Once you have the PESO model working well for you and driving your content and other activities, it’s time to determine the PR metrics that will help you be certain it’s working.

For each of the four media types, there are different PR metrics to track.

Here’s a starting point for your measurement activities.

Paid Media

  • Social media marketing ad conversions, using data from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and Google AdWords.
  • Landing page form completions.
  • Increases in the qualified leads in your email marketing database.
  • New fans or followers who come from reading your sponsored content.
  • Leads and conversions.

Earned Media

  • Influencer scoring: Does an influencer with 10,000 followers have the same score as someone with 1,000 followers? It could very well be that the person with 1,000 followers can incentivize purchase with 10 percent of his followers, while the person with 10,000 followers can incentivize purchase with only one percent.
  • How much web traffic comes from a story about your organization? See if those news outlets and blogs are sending visitors to your site, and if so, what they are doing once they arrive.
  • An increase in new audiences.

Shared Media

You have to track the number of fans and followers because sharp declines—or a trend of decreasing followers—will tell you something is wrong.

But an increase in these PR metrics, week after week, doesn’t count as business results.

The following PR metrics do:

  • Are you using brand ambassadors to help spread the word about your product or service? If you are, track their effectiveness.
  • Assign points to things such as likes, retweets, shares, and comments. This gives you numerical data on whether something works.
  • Use unique URLs, coupons, discount codes, or even telephone numbers only in your social media efforts. This will tell you whether you’re getting results from these efforts.

Owned Media

Pay attention to unique visitors, time spent on the site, and bounce rate.

Those things, such as an increase (or decrease) in social media followers, can indicate success or failure.

  • If you have a formalized owned media plan, you’re likely distributing content through email marketing. When you integrate your content with this paid media tactic, you can track things such as downloads and shares. Do people download the content? Do they read or watch or listen to it once it’s been downloaded? Is it so good they can’t help but share it with their communities?
  • Are people sharing your content? This is important to know because it provides proof to a new reader that you know what you’re doing.
  • Track the effectiveness of a community (people who comment on and share your content) by whether they’re referring business to you.
  • Is it driving sales?

What to Include in Your PR Metrics Dashboard

If you were to have a short list of the things to measure, it would include:

  • Domain authority
  • Search results
  • Attribution
  • Database growth
  • Qualified leads
  • Sales conversions

There are, of course, other things you can measure and include in your PR metrics dashboard.

But these are the most important because they show how the work you are doing is driving actual revenue.

Domain Authority

Your website’s domain authority is updated by Moz once or twice per month.

Though it’s not the end all, be all for measurement, it does give you a number from which to work each month.

For instance, we have a client whose domain authority was 24 when we started working with them three months ago.

Today, that number has climbed to 27.

Though it’s only three points in three months, the number is going in the right direction.

And it’s all because of content that we’ve created and promoted on their site.

If you are diligent and consistent about publishing content, you can expect to see a slow but steady increase each month.

It’s important to note you’ll see this number increase a lot more quickly when you are just starting out.

After you move to a domain authority of about 40, you’ll begin to see slower growth.

On average, you can expect about six points per year—or half a point every month.

One thing to note: you may increase your domain authority pretty consistently, only to find it drop several points overnight.

Do not freak out!

Typically that means Google has changed its algorithm and everyone’s authority number dropped.

Before you freak out, read the article linked above to help.

Search Results

How many results do you have on page one of Google results for your primary keywords?

Do you have a list of primary keywords?

If not, start there.

Talk with your SEO team and see what they’re tracking.

If you do not have an SEO team, you’ll need to do the work to figure out what your priority keywords are.

(The keyword research article linked at the beginning of this article will help.)

For instance, for us, they are things such as:

  • PR metrics
  • PESO model
  • Communications firm
  • PR professional development

We use Moz to track where they are, and how much they move from month-to-month.

If you don’t have a tool such as Moz, you can easily use a spreadsheet.

Open an incognito window for searching in Google.

To do so, you must use the Google Chrome browser, go to File in the navigation and choose “new incognito window” from the dropdown.

Then do a search for your keyword and see where it falls in results.

Is it on the first page or do you have to dig further?

Write down where it is in search results and use that change (hopefully it’s an increase every month) on your PR metrics dashboard.

Opening an incognito window allows you to see search results that are not affected by your personal search history and contact lists.

That way, you have a more accurate reflection of how a prospective customer might or might not see you in results.


Attribution means your efforts can take credit for that new customer, donor, or member.

You want to be able to attribute your PR programs to hard, cold cash.



These are the questions you should be able to answer:

  • How many of your website visitors are coming in from the contributed content you’re placing?
  • Which websites are sending you the most traffic?
  • Are any sites not sending traffic?

The easiest way to do this is to include a link to something valuable (not your home page) on your website from your media relations efforts.

It’s a combination of earned and owned media—and it has to work together.

If, however, you are unable or not willing to ask for a link in your media relations efforts, you can buy TrendKite or AirPR to help you.

Both tools provide attribution based on where a person goes after they read an article about you.

If they go to Facebook, then LinkedIn, and finally your site, these tools will tell you that.

Use this data to refine your media relations efforts over time.

Database Growth

Your organization’s email list is the cornerstone of ongoing sales.

If owned media is doing its job, it should be generating a steady stream of additional email addresses.

If you are getting clickthroughs to your site, but those visitors aren’t signing up for your email list or providing an email address in exchange for a lead magnet, it’s time to rethink your target media list.

No matter how popular the media outlet, if it’s not driving qualified traffic to your site, it’s not a good fit.

If you link to a landing page with an email collection form, or have an email subscription signup as the call-to-action in your PR content, you can track how many new email addresses were added to your list as a result of your efforts.

The point here is to increase the number of email addresses AND the number of click-throughs from those people.

It doesn’t help if you add emails, but those people never do anything.

You want them engaged.

To track this over time, it’s helpful to use a unique URL with your links, so you can obtain an aggregate number through Google Analytics.

Number of Qualified Leads 

Getting people to join your email list is important.

But many of the people on your list will never purchase anything from you.

They’ll never become clients.

That’s totally normal.

But those would be considered unqualified leads.

Your qualified leads are those who actually enter your sales funnel as prospective clients.

How many people became prospective customers after interacting with your content?

Track all the media outlets with whom you are placing content, the resulting traffic to your website from those placements, and the conversion of those visitors to potential customers.

The only way to do this is to use attribution and a customer relationship management tool.

If your organization does not have a CRM, this part will be very difficult for you to do.

Sales Conversions

The ultimate metric to track is sales.

How many sales came about as a result of our communications efforts?

It’s easy to get discouraged by seeing conversion rates in the single digits.

But here’s the thing—email marketing is considered to be one of the most effective marketing tactics, and a three percent conversion rate for an email is very good.

So don’t be discouraged by the actual number.

Pay attention, instead, to the trends—does it increase every month? Are you heading in the right direction?

Ideally you will be able to set up a report to do this in your marketing automation tool or customer relationship management software.

Use Google Analytics

To track these metrics, you want to spend quality time with Google Analytics.

With Google Analytics, you can identify:

  • Bounce rate. Are you attracting the right people to your site with your content? Or are they coming for the piece of content they saw linked to from somewhere then retreating never to be seen again?
  • Goal completion. Set your email subscription thank you page, your contact us form, and other lead-submission pages as goals and you can track your conversion rates.
  • Keywords leading to your content. Although you no longer get the depth of search data from Google Analytics, you can with Google Webmaster Tools. This will also help you with content creation.
  • Pages per session. Are your visitors exploring your site? If you’re attracting qualified traffic, and have created compelling content for that audience, they’ll be staying to read more on your site.
  • Referrals. Where are your new visitors coming from? Which media outlets send you the most relevant prospects?

You can choose any format you’d like to track your progress against these PR metrics.

I typically rely on Moz, Google Analytics, and graphics from our communications stack.

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