Mad about metrics—but what do they really mean in PR?

by | Aug 6, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

While sentiments on assessing PR value through metrics can often range from love to loathe, in today’s digital age, measuring PR outcomes has become more vital than ever.

When news is first published, PR professionals tend to focus on the particular media outlet in which our clients have been featured, its readership and/or viewership, how the messages are perceived to the audience and what tangible impact it will have on a company’s bottom line. Without a method and strategy to accurately collect and analyze data such as this, it can at times be difficult to measure the effectiveness and impact of our PR efforts.

I recently attended an exclusive event hosted by PR Week for PR professionals where the main topic of discussion was PR measurement.

As I listened to some of the top communicators in our field discuss the impact of PR measurement, it reminded me that measurement has become an invaluable—and underutilized—tool in every PR professional’s arsenal.

Mad about metrics—but what do they really mean in PR?

There are a few key lessons shared that were simple, yet impactful as they relate to measuring success from a PR vantage point:

Use data to make decisions

One of my favorite ESPN sports shows was “Numbers Never Lie.” The show was developed for fans who craved statistics and focused on analytics. Fans often used this show to help anticipate the next move of a particular team or athlete. For fans, numbers tell the story of successes, failures and future outcomes. Stephen Holmes of Home Depot spoke on data being at the heart of strategic decision-making.

Quite simply, data does more than provide an historical record. It leads to insights, and PR professionals as well as agencies should not be intimidated by the challenge of using data proactively to add business value. Metrics help bring credibility to a profession that is at times considered “fluffy” by some.

Distribute to understand

Once data is compiled, it has to be distributed internally and externally so everyone has three things: visibility, clarity and true understanding. It can be difficult to not get wrapped up in pretty presentations and vanity metrics when comes to reporting to your client.

Johna Burke of BurrellesLuce shared, “Your data has to make sense to people outside of your team. You need a member on your team who is truly dedicated to data, not someone who is just sticking their toe in. That way, you can see a true correlation of how the data is working for you.” And for your client!

Identify the end goal first

You’ve scored a media placement. Now what? There are times, as PR professionals, where we become fixated on placements. There’s no denying media placements are great for clients when they reach the right audience with the right message. However, as PR professionals, we should see placement as just one step in an ongoing process.

As Dean Trevellino of Trevellino Keller noted, “Don’t disregard the metrics, think beyond them. Forget about the glossy presentations and the vanity; the work you are doing for your clients day in and day out should always serve a purpose. Use metrics to evaluate and supplement those efforts and make small tweaks as you go to ensure the success for both your agency and your client.”

What school of thinking are you using?

When it comes to the new school of thinking as it relates to metrics, Deisha Barnett of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce took a walk down memory lane showing how the industry is evolving. KPIs, tone, and the number of placements often represent an “old school” thought process while impressions, event attendees and ‘likes’ represent the current state of our reporting.

What’s ahead? Machine learning and artificial intelligence. The Metro Chamber of Atlanta is currently working on a tool that measures their reputation score with Georgia State University, a true sign of the metric measurement times.

As PR professionals, we must be committed to the ongoing learning process when it comes to providing our internal team, and our clients, with the insight and the knowledge to understand what a media placement really means, and how it translates to a company’s brand and bottom line. No matter your sentiment behind metrics and measurement, it’s important for agencies and companies to employ an “ROI state of mind” when taking steps on the road to PR success.

This article originally appeared on the Media Frenzy Global blog; reprinted with permission.

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Tawanda Carlton
As a PR Account Executive at Media Frenzy Global, Tawanda helps plan and implement creative PR strategies to help clients achieve their business objectives.

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