We often think of public relations as a program to build vital intangibles for our senior communities such as goodwill, understanding and brand personalization. Those are important outcomes. However, justifying the PR spend to upper management can be just as important.
PR metrics are the answer. They are what the PR industry uses to measure its efforts in good old black and white numbers that go straight to the bottom line. The four most widely used indicators are media impressions, media value, clip counting and accuracy of coverage.
So what do these mean?
Media impressions are the number of people who could have been exposed to a story from either seeing, hearing or reading it. Keep in mind this does not measure how many people actually saw your story, but rather the potential reach of a media outlet that carried your message. This data comes from circulation or readership for print media, Nielsen ratings/audience for TV and radio, and unique views or daily page views for web pages.
Media Value or AVE (advertising value equivalency) is the estimated cost of the coverage if you were to pay for it as ad space. If your PR agency is doing it right, you probably spend way less on exposure through PR than if you had paid for it using advertising dollars. It is important to understand that the value of PR is usually calculated as a multiple of the value for the same size print ad or equivalent air time, because the news coverage carries implied third-party endorsement.
Clip counting is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the physical counting of clip placements, and several clipping services offer nationwide clip monitoring.
Accuracy of coverage encompasses a number of different metrics and is a bit harder to measure. This measurement pertains to how a reporter treated your message in relation to your competitor’s message, where your story appeared, the presence of your core message, inaccuracies or typos within the article and the general tone.
There are others, but these are traditionally the most widely used metrics to measure PR results. That being said, although these metrics are still the most utilized methods to evaluate and equate a dollar value to coverage, there are varied viewpoints on how to measure the impact and effectiveness of PR.
The good news is that, as we shift to more online content, we have the ability to connect to the reader on a more personal level and to better understand their attitude by their actions. We can now engage our audience through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, in addition to tracking how many people read or saw an article or blog post, if they shared it with others, and if they felt strongly enough to comment.
Whatever form of measurement PR evolves towards, it will always be your best tool for validating return on investment (ROI) for the PR investment. So becoming well versed in PR metrics is an investment in making and defending—and usually winning—the case for your PR budget. That’s a PR win all by itself!