PR Metrics

A few years ago (gosh, I think we’re coming up on five years now), I had the privilege of having coffee with Greg Galant, the CEO of Muck Rack

At the time, he’d written an article for Fortune about why PR gets no respect.

While not a new conversation for Spin Sucks readers, he had some insights that haven’t changed in the last five years.

(Which makes me very, very sad for our industry.)

He said the reasons the industry gets no respect are:

  • It’s not trackable.
  • PR pros have a terrible reputation problem with journalists.
  • You can’t scale it.
  • Because there is no use putting lipstick on a pig.

Sound about right, based on your experience?

Media Impressions and AVEs?

I don’t know why we have to continue to have the media impressions and AVE conversation, yet here we are.

if you live anywhere but the U.S., by this time next year, you will be in trouble for using AVEs in your PR metrics reporting.

In May of this year, AMEC announced they are going to invest “significant time and resource to finally kill off this derided metric.”

In a paper published on the topic, among the requirements of AMEC members includes:

  • All AMEC members to sign an undertaking that they will not provide AVEs by default to any client. Any client that requests AVE as a metric will receive standard educational material explaining why the metric is invalid and should not be used. They will be offered alternative PR metrics instead.
  • Working with PR Award organizers around the world to introduce a zero-scoring policy if awards entries include AVEs as a metric. AMEC members will not provide an AVE as a metric for any award competition entry.
  • Working closely with academics and PR practitioners to help them help AMEC kill off the demand for the metric which is sustaining it currently.

In direct response to AMEC, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations took it a step further and said any member using AVEs will be banned from the organization.

The new guidelines were presented to the CIPR Council in September.

Members will have one year to complete a transition to valid PR metrics.

If, after that time communicators are still found to be using AVEs, they “may be liable to disciplinary action.”

But Here in the U.S.?

When we judge award entries for the professional organizations, we find the results section to be lacking real business results.

They’re focused, instead, on Facebook fans, number of media interviews, and media impressions.

It hurts my analytical brain. It hurts my communications heart.

PR pros win big awards for measuring their efforts that way so why should it change?

It turns out, we can’t have our cake and eat it too.

Either we can win the big awards and display them in fancy cases in our lobbies.

Or we can have a seat at the table, and learn how to take advantage of the web to track against the real things that sustain a business.

Things such as increased revenue, shortened sales cycles, and improved margins.

Vanity and Data-Driven PR Metrics

But, here’s the thing: I’m not so numbers driven I don’t recognize the need for vanity PR metrics.

It is very difficult to measure brand awareness and the effectiveness of traditional PR.

Because of that, we have to find ways to measure our efforts in ways that are meaningful to the executives paying us.

I’ve broken down the types of things you can measure by vanity (brand awareness) and data-driven (business objectives) PR metrics.

Vanity Metric: Media Relations

Media relations doesn’t mean just working with journalists; it also includes blogger and influencer relations.

Because of the web, we no longer have to count on circulation multiplied by two and a half  if it’s a consumer publication.

Or multiply circulation by five if it’s a trade outlet.

Now you can track how many times an article, blog post, or piece of content was shared.

You can figure out how many people saw it, shared it, and read it.

Get to know Google Analytics (really, it’s non-negotiable) and track the traffic, views, and social shares.

Report to your executives the value of each campaign.

Vanity Metric: Customer Relations

We have a huge opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with our customers via the web.

Social media provides the opportunity to connect, engage, and chat.

In this case, fans, friends, connections, followers, and viewers make sense to track…when combined with the data-driven metrics.

Vanity Metric: Scaleability

One of the things Greg Galant mentioned as a problem for the industry is PR can’t scale.

That was true in the olden days—even just five years ago.

Today though?

PR pros are being tasked with boosted postspromoted tweets, and Outbrain.

In the past, because these things would be considered paid media, they would have lived under the advertising roof.

But I’m willing to bet, like us, more and more of you are spending time with these tools.

Facebook, Twitter, and Outbrain all give you analytics to support your social media buys.

Data Metric: Big Data

For those of you who have been in the industry for a few years, you’ll remember having to sit through focus groups night after night, watching people on the other side of one-sided glass talk about your products or services.

I was always happy when the advertising team said we didn’t need to attend.

They were so boooooring.

The beauty with Big Data is we no longer have to give up our weeknights (and eat pizza four nights in a row) to get information about what our customers think.

If you have strong command of all of the data at your fingertips, you will be able to influence high level decisions on product, market positioning, and more.

If you don’t know how to sift through the data, look at taking some online courses through Coursera or Cognitive Class.

Data Metric: Shortened Sales Cycle

If you’re in a consumer business, this is less important to you.

But in a B2B organization, a sales cycle could be anywhere from two days to two years.

Work with your sales team to figure out how long the average sale takes and set a goal to beat it.

Let’s say it takes 10 months..set your goal to nine months.

The best way to shorten a sales cycle?

Stay top-of-mind.

The best way to stay top-of-mind?

Create valuable and interesting content that is shared in the places your prospects hang out.

This could include email, social media, stadiums, subways, websites, and more.

The better your content, the more likely your prospects are to read it.

The more likely they are to read it (or view it or listen to it), the more likely they are to buy from you.

PR pros have ultimate control of this.

Data Metric: Improved Margins

We had a client a few years ago who incentivized us based on how much we helped his margins increased.

Just as we were about to get our bonus for an improving their margins by two percent, he decided to buy a Ferrari.

That killed the margins and we got no bonus.

(I also learned a very valuable lesson.)

If you don’t work for a public organization, I recommend staying away from this one.

If you do, however, the easiest way to determine your affect on margins is to track how much revenue you generated.

Then subtract your budget, your salary, and your benefits (if you work for a PR firm, subtract your budget).

The number you end up with is the revenue you’ll use for reporting.

Then you’ll have your finance team help you figure out the margins from there.

If you increased revenue by more than what you spent, you can pretty much guarantee you improved margins, too.

Data Metric: Increased Revenue

If you don’t work for a public company, having access to the revenue goals may prove a little difficult.

But, if your organization is run like mine, the revenue goals are very visible.

Figure out how you can affect growth.

If you have ecommerce, your campaigns will drive to landing pages where people can buy.

If you don’t sell online, your content, email, social media, media relations, and other efforts will be measured through the leads you generate, how you nurture them, and how you help sales convert them.

Gain access to the CRM so you know exactly where each lead comes from and whether or not they convert.

You have to have access to software the organization so you can track your efforts.

That is how you know how much money you’re driving for the business.

Include PR Metrics in Everything

It’s not an easy path.

Just yesterday, we talked about how important it is for you to evolve and learn new skills.

Part of that includes learning how to include PR metrics in the work you do.

I really hope we’re not having this same conversation five years from now.

At some point, executives will stop trying PR and go to the things that are measurable.

Let’s not let that happen.

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