Gini Dietrich

Seven PR Metrics that Will Gain You Respect

By: Gini Dietrich | October 12, 2017 | 

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.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Great post, Gini! We do need to become hybrid PR folks. And like other hybrids, it’s sometimes a bit difficult to get it started if you’re not familiar with the dashboard :).
    But we may have oversimplified the IPR discussion on the Canadian landscape. And just so everyone doesn’t think Canada is the measurement promised land, a lot of agencies still track impressions here.
    However with the MRP (Media Relations Rating Points), a standardized system that’s been adopted by the industry and endorsed by CPRS and IABC, we add qualitative measures to the equation. And the numbers are audited so everyone’s playing on the same field (or should be).  Hope we can completely banish the the idolization-of-impression one of these days soon.

    • @martinwaxman I wonder why we haven’t adopted something similar in the States? I think it’s important to not only be measuring against real business objectives, but to do so on a level industry playing field.

      • @ginidietrich It’s tough to get consensus. Maybe being in a smaller market helps. Or maybe when someone develops a new system, we’re so polite we just say thanks.

        • belllindsay

          @martinwaxman  @ginidietrich HAHAHAHA! Exactly!! 😀

        • MacLeanHeather

          @martinwaxman  @ginidietrich Too funny, and probably true.

        • @martinwaxman  LOL!!

        • @ginidietrich  @martinwaxman Here in the U.S. we are verrrrrry slow to change. In any way at all. The status quo is our friend, and we don’t just avoid change, we resist and fight it.

  • belllindsay

    Canada’s so progressive. 😉

    • @belllindsay we can learn a lot from our northern neighbours!

    • @belllindsay And way too nice.

      • @ginidietrich  @belllindsay nice?  you clearly haven’t had too many “real” conversations with Lindsay….

        • @KenMueller  @belllindsay I was speaking of Canadians as a whole…not about Lindsay specifically. I work with her. I know she’s not nice.

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich  @KenMueller Hey now!!

  • MacLeanHeather

    A great discussion post Gini!  As you mentioned, this has been an ongoing discussion and one that has been taking place most of my 20 years in the profession.  
    Like @martinwaxman I would like to point out that things are really not all that different in Canada.  The expectation on measurement actually goes beyond agencies and into both private and public sector organizations.  Having worked in both private and public sector companies, we definitely still looked at impressions and even had specific media scoring in place. etc.
    I believe having the conversation in terms of what has changed and how we need to change as practitioners is important.  Measurement is still needed.  What the right measurement should be, is obviously still open for debate.
    I also believe that there is no such thing as status quo.  While many would argue for status quo, in reality it is just not possible.  We might opt to not change, or up the anti or the bar so to speak, but that does not mean that things remain the same around us.  Oh contraire.  Two words:  social media.  It has changed everything.  So, for those that still have the idea of status quo, let’s talk to them in a year and see where they are and what they are doing.

    • @MacLeanHeather  Measurement is needed now more than ever. One of the things Shonali said in the podcast is if clients still ask for media impressions or AVEs, give them to them, but also give them some of the other data-driven metrics I outline in the blog post to show them how they really no longer matter.

      • MacLeanHeather

        @ginidietrich Absolutely agree. I think that we need to help guide them (being Canadian here with my wording) to see the potential and other possibilities.

  • One of the first things any prospective client asks me is “How can I get more fans, followers, etc…?”. and while I’ll work on that for them, I have to explain to them why that might not be as important as they think. Thankfully my newest client recognizes this. He has a ton of fans on Facebook, but also knows that there are a lot of spam accounts from Thailand, and he is doing everything he can to get rid of them and LOWER his number of fans, which will also lower some of his engagement  and reach metrics, since the spam accounts are posting and get registered as “talking about this”. I love clients like this.

    • @KenMueller I love clients like that, too! We’ve actually been really lucky in the past few years. When I announced in 2009 we were no longer a PR firm, that changed the conversation completely. Now people come to us and say, “Help us do this” and we tell them how and why. That never includes number of fans or media impressions.

  • John_Trader1

    Thanks for writing this Gini. Working for a private, B2B company where access to profits and margins is a little tricky, I got some pretty tangible takeaways from this that I can use.
    Although this post focuses on what PR can do from a metrics standpoint to gain respect, one thing I think that we can do as @martinwaxman points out is gain a consensus in the industry. I almost liken the fight to the current one in Congress about the pending “fiscal cliff” that pits two differing ideologies against one another and more than likely will produce a stalemate where no one gains anything and everyone loses a little. If we can just establish some sort of universal modernized guidelines that take into account the changing dynamics of the industry, we can gain the respect we deserve.
    It is going to take a monumental effort on our part to change the mentality of those who rely more on traditional, antiquated measurement tactics to abandon them in favor of metrics that matter.

    • @John_Trader1  And part of the problem, too, is PR people “go into PR because they hate math.” We have to change that mentality. This isn’t math. Sure, it’s numbers and it’s data, but it’s not freaking calculus. Make friends with the finance person in your office and have them help you. It’s like balancing a checkbook. It CAN be done.

  • MacLeanHeather

    @ginidietrich @SpinSucks A great article and a great discussion taking place.

    • ginidietrich

      @MacLeanHeather Thanks! And thanks for your contribution in the comments

      • MacLeanHeather

        @ginidietrich You are welcome and glad to have been a part of the discussion.

  • Baller post. #thatisall

    • @jasonkonopinski I’ll second that. 🙂

      • @lauraclick Hey! Congrats on your MARATHON! 😀

        • @jasonkonopinski  @lauraclick I’ll second THAT!

        • @ginidietrich  @jasonkonopinski Thanks, guys!!! 🙂

    • @jasonkonopinski I’m tired of the BS things people talk about online: The ROI of your mom or the value of a like or whatever it happens to be. There is only one thing that grows an organization: Money. If every, single one of us isn’t focused on growing that, the company doesn’t succeed.

      • @ginidietrich Absolutely, yes. Preacher, meet Choir.

      • debdobson62

        Well said and SO TRUE.

  • Love. Every session with a new client (one on long term retainer) begins with a discussion of their business model and revenue goals. If we don’t understand those, no pretty ads or plum media placements will be worth the funds they pay us. We have to understand what drives revenue for them in order to drive revenue for us. 🙂

    • @EricaAllison Or nicely written columns. 🙂

    • @EricaAllison Yes! And then we have to take it even further. Do they give you access to their financials? Their CRM? Their analytics? Are you involved in their executive meetings? Do you attend their sales meetings? Can you track your efforts against the things they’re doing to grow their organizations? If we can answer yes to all of those, we’re doing our jobs.

  • AnneReuss

    A meme? After my own heart @ginidietrich

    • @AnneReuss I like that @jeanniecw liked your comment.

      • @ginidietrich @AnneReuss I’m trying to start a meme of me liking things!

  • Metrics and analytics are great as long as you understand them will enough to explain why they are important. That might sound obvious, but I have sat through more than a few meetings where people tossed around numbers they really didn’t understand well.
    That is the kind of thing that causes issues because people start to lose faith when they aren’t sure if the other “guy” knows what they are talking about.

    • @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Totally agree. That’s why I say make friends with someone in finance so they can help you understand what it is you’re talking about.

      • @ginidietrich  @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes More data points doesn’t de facto mean more insights.  I’ve had to remind myself of that many times before.

        • @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich The finance guys might be useful for helping those who are math challenged in some areas but we still need to know why a particular number is useful or not.
          For example It is nice to know that someone clicked on an ad or downloaded an ebook but we really want to know about the post click conversion, or “what did they do after.”
          I have a few ebooks in my inbox that I haven’t read yet. I intend to, but it may not happen. If your client has 10,000 downloads but but only 5 people read the book what good is it.

      • RebeccaEdgar

        @ginidietrich  @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Interviewed senior finance/CFOs a couple years ago for research paper. Asked them about the value of relationships/reputation, if and where it landed on the balance sheet (short answer yes, but an uncomfortable yes) and where they saw PR’s greatest value overall. I should dig it out/dust it off. Great post. Enjoying the discussions it’s generating.

  • becktold

    Excellent post Gini.  As one who lives at the intersection of PR-advertising-marketing as head of marketing for Business Wire, establishing measurable goals and working in conjunction with all aspects of communication is critical for PR.  In fact, PR is ideally suited to take a lead as all areas of communications becomes a dialogue and not a one-way message.  That’s the PR sweet spot.  Help inform and influence keywords used throughout the organization.  Track and measure links and measure calls-to-action and different touch points in the communications cycle against organizational goals.
    As a judge for PR awards, it’s tremendously disappointing to see the measure of success being media impressions, growth in Twitter followers and increases in Facebook likes.  Step it out – how are those things moving your agreed-to measurement metrics?

    • @becktold The only real way to determine whether or not those things are moving to the true metrics is to track specific campaigns against them. Use unique URLs, develop different messaging, drop those people into lead nurturing campaigns. That’s the only way you truly know. For a while, companies could do ecommerce on FB and that was an easy way to tell, but that went away. It’s too bad, too.

      • becktold

        @ginidietrich Exactly right, and I don’t really see many folks inserting those unique measurable identifiers into their communications just yet.  Keep informing and reporting!!

  • I think the biggest problem is getting access to the information. As @EricaAllison mentioned, understanding business goals and their sales cycle and business process is critically important from the beginning. If you don’t have access to that information (or if the company doesn’t know what the heck they’re trying to accomplish), it’s going to be awfully difficult for you to achieve success. It all has to start there. And, for us to gain respect, we have to ask those questions and push them to see that our work is not just about “likes” and media impressions.

    • @lauraclick  @EricaAllison We won’t do business with anyone who won’t give us access. In 2013 we’re beta testing a performance-based model with a couple of current clients. Both of them have opened up their financials, CRM, and analytics to us and consider us true partners. Without that, we know we can’t be successful so we just won’t take on a company as a client who isn’t willing to let us have access.

      • @ginidietrich  @EricaAllison That’s a great practice.
        For me, since I’m working with smaller clients, it’s not so much about getting access, but getting clients to measure the RIGHT things. Many smaller businesses don’t have CRMs or if they do, they aren’t using it properly. Step one is often to get them to track and measure what they’re doing.

        • @lauraclick  We have a client who still uses Excel for his CRM. I tease him about it all the time, but it works for them and he updates it every week in Dropbox for us so we always have the latest information.

  • ginidietrich

    @Culture_Content Thank you, sir!

  • ginidietrich

    @javilabbe Hey! Long time no talk! How are you?

  • ginidietrich

    @engagetony Thanks!

  • ginidietrich

    @ldiomede xoxo

  • ginidietrich

    @_abelfernandes THank you

  • mediamaison

    RT @SpinSucks Seven Metrics PR Should Track to Gain Respect

  • ginidietrich

    @Culture_Content That stuff makes me freaking nuts! I’m actually headed to Amsterdam and not back until Saturday

  • ginidietrich

    @mphantz Thank you!

  • ginidietrich

    @javilabbe HAHAHAHAHAHA! LOL!!!

  • ginidietrich

    @Culture_Content Thanks!

  • gsosk

    @Wikkman Hey Will, how’s it going? Thanks for the RT. 🙂 Long time no see!

  • ginidietrich

    @Wikkman Thank you!

  • *Full disclosure: I didn’t read past the media relations bullet. I am so very sorry.*
    My large automotive client is thinking about getting rid of media impressions altogether. I’m on board with this strategy.
    Within PR, you (we) lose a little respect when you claim your press release hit 10 billion impressions because anybody can put a release on the wire. The shares and the “likes” allow us to give our clients a more intimate view of our (their) success.
    The numbers might be lower, but the value is higher.

    • @bradmarley LOL! I finished writing it and thought, “Dang! This is way too long.” But I didn’t want to delete any of the bullets, so I’m totally OK with your not reading all of them.

    • kdpaine

      @bradmarley brad, we’ve had clients who have rejected the whole impressions metric for years. And, the credibility of this metric will continue to decline as the numbers get even sillier (we saw one client data set from Cision that gave every Facebook post 850 million impressions then multiplied it by 3!

      • @kdpaine Ha. Why would they give 850 million impressions? Because that’s the same number of Facebook registered users? We might as well just say every story has 7 billion impressions and call it a day.

  • ginidietrich

    @nateriggs I like you saying so

  • jgombita

    Some errors in post/comments @ThePRCoach @SpinSucks paid service MRP trademarked by @CPRSNational & endorsed by some @IABC Canada chapters

  • jgombita

    @ThePRCoach @SpinSucks + to say it is (Cdn.) “industry wide” is disingenuous. Adoption by companies paying for service good but not totality

  • Hey, @ginidietrich , you know I love this stuff. So much so that last month I presented on it to the CIPR in the UK (Chartered Institute of Public Relations). As you said on Inside PR, the Canadians have done well but now the rest of the world needs to gets to grips with an alternative to AVEs. There is some great work coming out from the likes of kdpaine  and AMEC, but what’s the key? Simplicity. Affordability. And Ease of Use. And with the marketing and site analytics now available, it’s all possible.
    If you’re interested, the presentation was made public here:

    • @HughAnderson  Simplicity and ease of use. Yes! I just did a webinar on this topic and suggested people just start with an Excel worksheet. The more complicated we make it, the harder it is to implement.

  • ginidietrich

    @hughforth Thanks Hugh!

  • kdpaine

    Thank you so much Gini for writing this! You are dead on. The only point I would argue with is the measurement section of professional award programs. Like you, I assume that they were still fraught with AVEs, but actually, people who submit AVE based results will have a hard time winning this year. Check out the survey we did

    • @kdpaine I wish that were the case across the board, KD. We saw a lot of that this year and it made me sad. I just judged some awards and immediately removed the entries that had Facebook likes and media impressions as “results.” It left only one in the entire category.

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  • carriegfung

    Thanks for the post! It’s really refreshing to see how the PR industry can gain more respect, instead of reading how we can work for our clients. I have never heard of big data until now, but then again I’m still a novice with the whole PR industry… Teaching students to sift through data and avoid long nights with focus groups seems efficient, but I think there is still some great  value in focus groups that other types of methodology does not offer. Hopefully they’ll teach more big data courses in the near future!

    • @carriegfung Take a look at Coursera. They’re doing some free classes on the topic and they’re very, very good.

  • ginidietrich

    @getsqueeze I also mentioned you when I spoke this week. People need to use the platform!

  • ginidietrich

    @getsqueeze Only one: @stickybranding’s guest post is doing as well as my posts do.

    • StickyBranding

      @ginidietrich @getsqueeze wow! That’s amazing to hear.

  • StickyBranding

    @getsqueeze I had to do some digging to put 2-&-2 together. Did you rebrand Sequentia or is this something new?

  • StickyBranding

    @getsqueeze very cool. You’ll have to give me a demo sometime

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  • ginidietrich

    @RTRViews xoxox

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