When a company chooses to run a public relations campaign, they need to be able to measure and evaluate the success of the public relations efforts in order to get the maximum value. Without measurement, the resources they dedicate towards public relations will be unfocused and less effective.
So, how can you measure the results and impact of a public relations campaign?
There are plenty of things you can measure, but it generally boils down to output, engagement and outcomes. Looking for a simple solution or report is akin to relying on a single source of truth, therefore the best approach is looking at multiple data points and agreeing on what are the benchmarks of success.
Tracking outbound content is one of the most popular ways to measure success, and refers to messages being aimed at target audiences, through press releases, social media and other public relations tools. The volume of this content is directly linked to the amount of exposure the organization receives. The measurement of this content looks at the total number of stories, articles or interviews generated during the public relations campaign. A successful program will produce content regularly and consistently every month.
It’s also important to calculate the potential impressions – that is, the number of people who might have been exposed to the content. Counting impressions helps measure the visibility of the content and how frequently users are viewing posts, messages, articles, etc. You should ask – is our message reaching an audience? If yes, how often? How large is the audience?
Companies should not only be evaluating the amount of exposure, but also confirming if audiences actually received the messages and responded to any calls-to-actions. An example of this is an increase in the number of people requesting demos. Another great example is monitoring the number of followers on various social media channels before the start of a campaign, and comparing it to the number by the end of the campaign.
As companies look to measure the impact of their public relations programs, it is also important to include metrics that evaluate website traffic. Take a look at the unique visitors per month before a campaign, and then every month during the campaign. Over the course of a year, the number of visitors should be steadily increasing. Sales leads often come from calls-to-actions listed on the website, so it’s important to analyze any spikes in site traffic. If you had great coverage from your local news station, with a subsequent online article, did it influence traffic to your website?
It’s true that the benefits of public relations can be more difficult to track than other communication tactics like digital advertising. However, there is no better way to support marketing and lead generation plans. As an important practice within marketing, PR program outcomes are as important to track, more so, than clicks, views or impressions. Given public relations’ importance, it’s crucial that companies leverage it into a competitive advantage as efficiently as possible.