Metrics that Matter: Assessing Digital PR Impact on Business Goals
PR plays a pivotal role in shaping brand perception. It is crucial to optimize strategies both before launching a campaign and after when demonstrating value to clients, their company directors, and other stakeholders.
However, measuring PR effectiveness is a controversial topic. Two popular methods used by PR professionals, both in agencies and in-house, include quantitative (mentions, reach) and qualitative metrics (tone of publication, format, media level). But the problem is that although they are measurable, these indicators mean nothing if they are not tied to business goals.
Experts often measure PR in a similar way to marketing, evaluating it according to funds used, considering it a direct investment. However, measuring the effectiveness of communications is usually a much more subtle process. There is no exact mathematical formula. Nevertheless, results can be determined and measured in other ways.
In this article, we delve into the key metrics and provide insights on how to accurately measure PR campaign effectiveness.
Number of publications
Let’s start with an easy metric: the number of publications mentioning a brand, products, or services. To measure this metric, you simply need to count all the publications in which your company gets mentioned during a set timeframe. This can be executed manually or with help of automation tools.
Media Impressions and Reach
This metric tracks the number of times a publication is likely to have been seen. Knowing how many publications in which you gained a mention is useful, but this measure breaks that out into more detail.
“Media impressions” focus on the total number of views, including potential duplicate views by the same individuals. “Reach” emphasizes the unique number of individuals who may have been exposed to the content.
Some digital outlets have inserted trackers to measure media impressions, otherwise platforms like Similarweb can be used.
Share of Voice (SOV)
Share of Voice (SOV) measures a brand's presence in the media relative to its competitors. This metric provides an insight into the market dominance of a brand and its messaging. Calculated as a percentage, SOV helps to track whether PR efforts are positioning a brand as a thought leader within the industry.
SOV = Brand impressions / Industry impressions x 100%
It is important to track the SOV of the brand - the higher it is relative to competitors, the more contacts with the audience occur. As a result, when customers are making a purchasing decision, they are more likely to choose you.
Sentiment (or tone) measures how a person, group, organization, or issue is portrayed in the media. Sentiment is normally categorized as positive, negative, or neutral, with varying degrees of positive and negative.
Until a few years ago, most companies would track sentiment across brand mentions in a manual way—not only an incredibly inefficient and time-consuming process, but also prone to errors. Now it is conducted via sophisticated software. Chat GPT itself can be employed as a quick-and-easy unbiased tool to estimate the sentiment in a publication.
Naturally, a large occurrence of positive mentions indicates a solid, stable, and thriving brand reputation, whereas mostly negative ones can be the first red flags preceding a PR crisis. Keeping up with the nature of your brand’s mentions, therefore, can prove invaluable.
Social Media Engagement
In the socials, we can track metrics such as likes, shares, comments, and overall engagement across platforms to gauge the resonance of messages. Social media analytics tools offer a detailed breakdown of audience demographics and sentiments, enabling the refining of strategies for maximum impact.
Platforms like Twitter and Discord now feature inbuilt dashboards that deliver relatively detailed statistics and analytics. For inspiration, see this list of exemplary brands that have a great social media presence.
Website Traffic and Conversions
Web traffic is one of the key indicators of profitability in PR, especially for online businesses. Visitor numbers give some idea of success, with increases suggesting a healthy brand awareness. On the flip side, decreases in visitors might indicate an unsuccessful campaign or a downturn in reputation.
However, this traffic doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, it’s helpful to know which visitors are new and who are returnees persuaded to revisit your site. You need to drill down into the numbers and determine the origin of your traffic. This then tells you which campaigns and channels are proving most effective, while demographics such as age group, location, and device will show whether you’re reaching your target audience.
Set yourself a benchmark by measuring web traffic before and after a campaign. You can then see changes in traffic by looking at new visitor numbers and visitor recency. Also, look for spikes in the number of qualified leads and conversions. If the PR campaign is working, you’ll see an increase. There are plenty of tools to help you measure web traffic, such as Google Analytics, Semrush, and Ahrefs.
Here are some metrics to consider:
- Earned traffic (visitors resulting from earned coverage and link placement).
- Referral traffic (visitors from external sources like blog posts or social media).
- Click-through rate (CTR) from emails or social media.
- Goal conversions (subscribing, filling-out a form, completing a transaction).
- You’ll have a lot of data to analyze, so you might want to consider using ETL data. solutions. These tools enable you to extract data from a wide range of sources and turn it into actionable insights that can inform meaningful business decisions.
There is a useful guide on Forbes with some tips on how to increase web traffic.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Ultimately, clients want to see tangible results tied to their investment in PR. It is possible to calculate the return on investment (ROI) by comparing the cost of PR campaigns to achieved outcomes, such as increased sales, new partnerships, or improved brand reputation. Running a series of successful PR campaigns is only half the battle. The rest involves the complex process of understanding how these campaigns perform, to learn and improve from them.
While the initial PR goal may not be to show a good ROI but to boost brand awareness, this ultimately leads to business profit. This is not always a straightforward or immediate process – it can often take time and effort – but it’s always worth it. Strategic communications are about long-term results. PR is called upon to increase awareness and build a positive reputation for a brand. It is a key driver for increasing trust in the company.