According to a recent survey of communications professionals, the average PR manager tracked at least five metrics in 2021, and most planned to follow six or more in 2022. 

The topic of how to measure PR effectiveness is perpetually talked about in the industry. Still, the truth is that PR measurements are often misunderstood, misused, and lack clear direction.

Let’s take a closer look at what PR professionals should pay attention to when developing and implementing success metrics for their communication strategies. 

What is PR measurement?

PR measurement, sometimes called “earned media value,” is a way to set goals and gain concrete metrics that gauge how well your communications efforts perform. 

Like most industries, PR measurement trends tend to come and go over time. Here are a few trends to take note of: 

  1. Engagement over promotion: Audiences want to feel connected to brands and founders. Effective PR involves helping clients understand how to strike a balance between promoting themselves and developing connections with consumers. 
  2. Having a cause you support: Younger audiences are especially concerned with the ethics and principles of brands and public figures. They want to see brands that are willing to be societal role models and put action behind their words. This is why ethical awareness is a metric PR professionals should take into account.
  3. Diversity, equity and inclusion are critical: its talking points are a must for communication strategies now. Audiences of all ages expect brands to take meaningful action toward inclusivity and integrate DEI principles into their messaging. 

Why is measuring PR results important? 

One of the most important rules of public relations is that you can’t improve something if you don’t measure the results. Importantly, measuring PR success comes with plenty of benefits other than simply being able to improve your strategies. 

1. It proves value.

Executives aren’t always thrilled to expend resources on PR. Having measurable, actionable goals with the numbers to back them provides concrete proof of value to your superiors.

2. It highlights strengths and weaknesses.

When you have a specific goal, it’s easier to see where your PR efforts are succeeding and where the weaknesses are, for more efficient adjustments.

3. It streamlines future planning.

Measuring PR effectiveness gives you a historical dataset to refer back to. You can see which tactics worked best, so future planning is more efficient and campaigns are more successful. 

4. It protects your business during a crisis.

Every business faces times of crisis, and that’s when PR needs to be strongest. You can navigate a crisis with minimal damage when you already have the data to show the best PR campaign strategy.

5. It helps to achieve business objectives.

PR is one of the most important elements for achieving your company’s business objectives. Communication strategies must evolve according to your business goals, but they must also conform to the trends and expectations of your target audience. This is a somewhat tricky balancing act, and it’s a big part of why concrete metrics are so important.

When you establish PR metrics from the outset, they allow your business to evaluate how well the company is progressing toward its ultimate goals. The right metrics also clearly show how PR is helping your company make that progress.

PR metrics are important for forming and improving your communication strategy, and they also help quantify otherwise qualitative concepts like audience sentiment and what kinds of content resonate with your demographics. Below are a few simple steps to help you create an effective measuring system for your PR strategy.

How do you measure the results of a PR strategy? 

Step one: make a plan 

Use SMART planning to set a foundation of solid and attainable goals: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Step two: decide your metrics 

Which metrics you should track depends on the goals for your strategy. Your tracked metrics will also change based on whether your PR efforts are in traditional or digital format. 

Below are some metrics examples to pay attention to when measuring your PR efforts: 

  • Message penetration: Today’s PR strategies need depth, which means you need to analyze how your message is affecting specific audiences. For this, it’s a good idea to have a seasoned media analyst on your team.
  • Expertise: Basic brand mentions are no longer enough. It’s also important to analyze the role of the expert in the publication they’re mentioned in.
  • Reprints: Measuring reprints shows how good the news was and how well it spread. If your content doesn’t get a certain amount of reprints, it’s time to make a critical evaluation of your messaging.
  • Publication scale: Be sure that the outlets your brand publishes to are aligned with your goals. In general, it’s typically worth much more to be mentioned in one tier-1 media outlet than it is to get a dozen mentions in small, regional outlets. However, depending on your goals, those small mentions can also be highly valuable, so adjust your metrics accordingly.
  • Coverage: A wider reach isn’t always better. Rather than wasting effort on maximum reach, ask yourself which regions need to know about your brand. If you waste money and effort trying to penetrate a market with no business presence, it can actually be harmful to get mentions in regional media.

Step three: use these four elements to measure PR success

Success can be boiled down to four simple terms: 

  • Outputs (what you’ve produced)
  • Outtakes (what your audience take away)
  • Outcomes (how your audience responds)
  • Impacts (how the company is affected)

If what you’ve produced positively impacts the company and generates the responses and takeaways you intended, then you have chosen the right course and your efforts were successful. 

Remember these three questions for measuring PR success

Ultimately, the goal of any great PR campaign is to drive business outcomes and further the growth and expansion of the brand. To understand how to measure PR effectiveness, you must remember to ask these questions: 

  • What results did our PR generate? 
  • Were these results valuable and effective?
  • How did these results help advance the brand’s strategic objectives? 

This final question is the most important. All PR goals should factor into the overarching goals for the brand. Otherwise, the department runs the risk of appearing activity-focused rather than goals-focused. 

Below you will find some tools and frameworks to lay the groundwork for a straightforward method of developing tactics, implementing strategies and measuring PR results.

Which tools will help you to report on growth and success? 

One of the most effective tools for public relations reports is the Integrated Measurement Framework by The International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). It’s an interactive tool that PR managers can use for any PR activity. 

This tool offers a step-by-step guide to lead users through the entire process of building a successful PR campaign. It’s color-coded, numbered and tiled so you can easily create a comprehensive, holistic plan with reliable, meaningful measurements. 

There are many other tools that can make a PR professional’s job easier, too. For example, utilizing Coverage Book can streamline the process of creating a coverage report by allowing PR experts to create easy, eye-catching reports that outline impact and showcase PR work in a quick, efficient manner.

PR Metrics Are the Foundation of Long-term Success 

It’s important to remember that you can’t achieve success if you don’t have a clear-cut idea of what that success should look like. PR metrics not only offer concrete proof of the value of investing in a strong communication strategy, but they also offer protection during a corporate crisis and help keep the business on track over the long term. 

As long as the PR team keeps a goal-oriented mindset, the right set of metrics can be used as a solid foundation for propelling the brand to new heights.