PR MetricsThere is a lot of conversation happening online about the PR metrics communications professionals should use.

This is good!

We finally are having the conversation, which means two things:

  1. Clients are beginning to realize there is more to what we do than media impressions and advertising equivalencies; and
  2. Communications pros are learning from their marketing counterparts and becoming more data- and metric-savvy.

But there is a small problem with the conversation… it’s all focused on media relations.

This makes me want to cry.

Not only is there much more to what we do, there is much more we have to measure.

PR Metrics

There are three organizations that have created a list of things we should measure.

From #SMMStandards:

  • Engagement and conversation
  • Reach and impressions
  • Sentiment, opinion, and advocacy
  • Influence and relevance
  • Impact and value

From the Institute for Public Relations:

  • Return-on-investment
  • Circulation, reach, and impressions
  • Mention
  • Engagement

With the exception of return-on-investment, each of these PR metrics are based on things that don’t matter to an organization’s growth when it comes to cold, hard cash.

Sure, they matter to reputation and to how people feel about your organization, but those have to be combined with the things that drive sales or new donations or new members.

The Barcelona Principles come closer to what we need to measure:

  • Tangible incremental increase in sales;
  • Shift in behavior, rather than just purchase intent; and
  • More brand advocates this quarter compared to the previous quarter.

Still, there is more, and we have to do better.

Following are the metrics every integrated marketing communications program should employ, particularly in the PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned media) model.

Paid Media

Traditionally paid media has been left to the advertising guys, but today communications professionals have a huge opportunity to get really good at it.

Should you start learning how to write jingles and shoot commercials? Absolutely not. Leave that to the professionals.

What you should consider is how to use paid media to drive leads and conversions.

Think about the following PR metrics:

  • Social media marketing. This is one of my most favorite things to do because the data is sophisticated and, if you’re using it correctly, you know exactly how much money you need to spend to reach your goals. For instance, we have a program that teaches agency owners how to scale and grow their businesses. I know it costs $53 for someone to book a call with us and $12 to enroll them. For $67 in Facebook and Instagram ads, we get a new client. From there, you can extrapolate spend as it helps sales.
  • Landing pages and email growth. If you’re just starting out, there is no better software to use than Hubspot. It attaches to your content management system (or, in some cases, they become your CMS) and it provides data and recommendations, based on the people who are already visiting your site. They recommend content (see owned media below) for you to put behind a landing page. That landing page will collect email addresses from the people who want your content. Those people become warm leads. Those warm leads can be nurtured and eventually turned into customers. Track them through the buying process and measure the effectiveness of your ability to get them to buy.
  • Email marketing. There is almost nothing better for lead generation, nurturing, and conversion than email marketing. But I’m not talking about your monthly newsletter that talks about your latest and greatest products or projects. I’m talking about email marketing that is valuable, informative, and interesting to your buyer. Maybe it’s a handful of videos that show new ways to use your product (see Will it Blend?) or a blog post that will help your audience be better at their job (presumably something like this post!).
  • Leads and conversions. We have a client that has software as a service and offers a free trial. We know how many people we need at the top of the marketing funnel (which we track through the blog). We know the percentage of those who will take the free trial. And we know the percentage of those who will convert to being a customer. So, if we want to increase sales, we have to increase our top of the funnel visitors.

Earned Media

Earned media got its name because you garner results from the relationships you earn—with influencers, journalists, and bloggers.

Historically, earned media has been the most credible because the stories, recommendations, and referrals come from third parties, though word-of-mouth from friends and friends of friends has quickly taken that leadership position (see shared media).

To measure the effectiveness of your earned media program, think about the following PR metrics:

  • Media, blogger, and influencer scoring. Consider this…does the Puxatoomie News Herald have as high a score as the New York Times? Does an influencer with 10,000 followers have the same score as someone with 1,000 followers? Maybe. Maybe not. But do the work. It could very well be that the person with 1,000 followers can incentivize purchase with 30 percent of his followers, while the person with 10,000 followers can incentivize purchase with only one percent. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather work with the person who can incentivize more people. That person is more influential.
  • Web performance. It nearly kills me every time I ask people if they review their Google analytics and less than one percent actually do. This is based on my own, non-qualitative, data. But Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media Studios conducts an annual blogger survey that shows the same. Nearly half either never or only occasionally review their analytics. People! There is so much data in that free tool. Get it. Play with it. Understand it. And create your metrics. Pay attention to how much new traffic a story, a blog post, a tweet, or a Facebook mention brings you. Is it qualified traffic? Do they visit other pages? Is the bounce rate low? Do they spend some significant time on the site? All of these things will tell you how valuable that third-party influencer is to your campaign (and helps you with scoring in the future).
  • New audiences. At the top of the marketing funnel are the audiences and loyal fans that brands have; the people who are becoming aware of the brand via all of its communications. These audiences come from the addressable markets that a brand can potentially serve, and it’s the job of public relations and advertising to build those audiences and to identify and cultivate those loyal fans of your brand. Track new audiences through unique visitors to the website and quantify their value. Once audience value is quantified, the ROI of PR is computable in real dollars and cents.
  • Attribution. Last, but certainly not least, learn how to use attribution in your earned media efforts and collect your PR metrics. What this means is what is the increase in sales attributed to? If you get good at Google Analytics, you’ll be able to report a lift in web visitors when a story runs. The most important thing you can in earned media—outside of earning the story, of course—is getting a link from the media outlet’s website to yours. If you do that, Analytics will who you exactly how much traffic came to your site from that story—and what those visitors did. If you do nothing else, ask fo the link. Every time.

Shared Media

There is almost nothing that drives me more crazy than PR campaigns that tout their increases in social media followers as “results.”

Yes, you have to track those things because sharp declines—or a trend of decreasing followers—will tell you something is wrong.

But an increase, week after week, do not results make.

The following PR metrics, however, do:

  • Social media advertising. Think particularly about Facebook and LinkedIn advertising. Both have the potential to drive both leads and conversions. My friend Terreece Clarke has had incredible success driving appointments with a daycare client of hers through Facebook advertising. They match the clicks on the ads to the likes on the page to the people who make appointments and have found it works incredibly well. You have to know what you’re doing, but Facebook and Instagram work incredibly well to drive sales.
  • Influencer relations or brand ambassadors. The Barcelona Principles suggest we increase our brand advocates each quarter. This is a good metric if they are doing something (you don’t just have more ambassadors). During the Spin Sucks (the book) launch several years ago, we took a long, hard look at how many of the 150 ambassadors actually did something. Did they post a review? Did they share with their social networks? Did they write a blog post? Did they use their media relationships to get a review in a more traditional way? Did they podcast about it? We found about 50 percent did one (or all) of those things. Not a bad return-on-investment because it correlated to sales.
  • Rating system. Just like you can score your earned media, you can do the same for your social media updates and shares. Assign a point system to your efforts. For instance, likes are one point, comments are five points, and shares are 10 points. Then you can assigns points to each social network. On Twitter, you can use five points for a tweet and 10 points for a retweet. The point here is that you very quickly learn which campaigns worked really well and which fell flat on their face.
  • Unique stuff. By “stuff” I mean unique URLs, landing pages, coupons, discount codes, or even telephone numbers. The only place these should be used is in social media (you can have different ones for the other media types to measure their effectiveness in a larger campaign). This allows you to easily point to the success of one tactic or marketing platform. In Google Analytics, track how many people are using the unique stuff assigned to your shared media updates.

Owned Media

The beauty of owned media—or content that lives on something you own, such as your website or blog—is it completely integrates with the other three media types.

You cannot have owned media without paid media (increased reach), earned media (increased awareness), and shared media (increased distribution).

Alright, that may be a bit bold—you certainly can have owned media without those three things—but it won’t be as successful if you don’t use those assets.

Also think about these PR metrics:

  • The vanities. Yes, I’m not so naive to think these don’t matter. You should 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, indicate success or failure. But these are the tip of the iceberg.
  • Email marketing. If you have an organized owned media program, you likely are distributing 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 they bringing you new website visitors—which correlate to new leads—because you’ve provided so much value?
  • Social media shares. As much as I really, really hate to admit it, social media shares matter. Ever been to a site where you’ve read a piece of content, thought it brilliant, and then noticed there are no social shares? Your immediate thought is not, “Oh this content must be crap” (though that doesn’t enter your mind). Your immediate thought is, “What’s wrong with me that I thought this so brilliant?” Social shares matter because they provide social proof.
  • Community. There is lots and lots and lots of debate about what a community can do, both for your vanity metrics and your social shares. Having built a community of Crazies (I love you all!) and replicating that same success for clients, I can tell you, hands down, an engaged community drives sales. We track the effectiveness of your involvement through book sales (yay, ambassadors!), speaking engagement recommendations, client referrals, and professional development through the Spin Sucks Academy. An engaged community indirectly drives a significant amount of our revenue. Build your community! In many cases, it will integrate with your influencer relations and brand ambassadors.
  • Sales. Admittedly, it’s fairly easy for us to track sales from our owned media because we’re a small organization. It’s easy to ask people to tell us how they found us and follow their journey backwards to see which buying process they used. That said, we know eighty percent (that’s 8-0 percent) of our new revenue starts with this blog or the Spin Sucks podcast and the buying process goes one of three or four ways. We can help people make a decision by providing them the information they need in one of those processes.

PR Metrics Dashboard

This is a lot—I know it’s a lot. And if you’re not accustomed to measuring your efforts to an organization’s growth, it can be completely overwhelming.

Let me make it easier on you and tell you what to include in your PR metrics dashboard, particularly if you’re just starting out.

Below is an example of a PR metrics dashboard we use for a SaaS client.

Marketing Dashboard Sample

You can see we start with unique visitor to the blog. It’s specific to the blog versus the entire site because that is what we are responsible for.

Then it goes to top-of-the-funnel leads, how many people visit the free trial landing page, and the number of people who created a free trial.

We know that if someone creates a free trial—and gets 75% of the way through it—they’re highly qualified.

That’s what the cumulative free trial conversion rate tells us.

Then we show how many of the free trials converted to new customers—and what that percentage rate is.

Then we look at monthly recurring revenue (that’s the MRR line), which tells us how many people continue to buy, month-after-month. From there, we look at new business—or new customers—for the month and then churn, which is how many people stopped using (and paying for) the software.

At the end of each month, each quarter, and each year, we know exactly how effective our PESO Model program has been because it’s all right there, in black and white.

We Are an Investment, Not an Expense

What this all comes down to, of course, is whether or not we’re providing real proof that we are an investment, and not an expense.

Some of these things are considered traditional PR, while others fall into your new role as a PESO Model Certified professional. 

It’s time for us to extend the conversation about PR metrics to more than just media relations.


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.

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