Measuring for PR Success

If PR success was measured by the amount of publicity one receives then Teresa May would be doing very well indeed. Except of course, the reality is rather different. There’s an old saying that goes ‘all publicity is good publicity’ but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The wrong sort of publicity can ruin reputations and end careers. And sometimes the job of a PR professional is to keep their clients out of the news, rather than in it.

So, if it’s not always about volume of editorial coverage or the number of followers on social media, how do you measure PR success? One popular old method was to simply compare the amount of editorial space gained through a PR campaign with the amount it would have cost to buy that same space as advertising.

This system, known as Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) has now largely been discredited because it’s a very poor indicator of the impact a good PR campaign can make. It’s worth remembering that advertising and PR are fundamentally very different forms of communication – advertising is 100 per cent controlled by you, PR is directed, but not controlled by you – and editorial coverage actually carries far more value simply because true editorial, while it may be influenced, cannot be bought.

PR is all about using the power of persuasion to influence behaviour and perceptions. How to directly attribute PR activity to these changes and therefore measure a campaign’s success can be tough at times, which is why it’s important to use a combination of tactics to keep track of how your campaign is doing.

Here’s three tips to try:

1. Establish a benchmark
Always try and establish your position before you begin activity and set some realistic goals for what you’re aiming to achieve. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that encompass a variety of measurements can be a very effective way of doing this. For example, we recently ran a glass recycling PR campaign for Marks & Spencer and Friends of Glass, which had six KPIs agreed from the start. These included one where glass recycling figures for the same period the previous year in the campaign area were used as a benchmark. The results showed there was a 100 tonne increase during the campaign period, (and incidentally the highest ever for that time of year in the area), giving us proof that the activity had hit home*.

2. Quality sometimes beats Quantity
A large volume of cuttings is often used to indicate success in PR, but what if your key messages were missing from the pieces? Sometimes a few well-targeted articles can deliver a bigger punch than lots of vague mere mentions. Consider what success looks like from the outset and you will be able to target your efforts more effectively. A story we placed recently for a client in one key national newspaper was all that was needed to deliver the response and results required.

3. Take a 360-degree approach
Consider from the outset how you will measure all aspects of the campaign, including social media. Likes and followers are all very well but it’s engagement that is king so make sure you’re using the tools that will help you keep track. The platforms themselves offer excellent analysis tools such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Instagram Insights and Google Analytics.

*See our full M&S/Friends of Glass Are You A #RecyclingHero campaign case study.