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How to Objectively Measure the Success of Your PR Campaigns

“Oh! Cool job. You get paid to party a lot and rub elbows with famous people.” This is what people in general automatically think when they meet others who work in PR. Having had my share of similar reactions from friends and family, I can tell you that while yes, these things are part of our job, attending events and socializing make up about 10% of what we actually do.

PR is a career that forces you to deal with a lot of people. As its name suggests, our main purpose is to foster strong, healthy relationships between our clients and the public, and a lot of this is done through positive word of mouth expressed through various forms of media coverages or social media posts. Hence, the socializing. 

What most people don’t know about our profession is that a big chunk of what we do is focused on doing research, managing projects, writing strategic narratives, and measuring a campaign’s success or return of investment (ROI).

I’ve been a publicist for almost a decade now and if there’s one thing about this job that has always been a challenge for me, it’s making clients understand how ROI is measured in PR. Many just have preconceived knowledge that a successful campaign is one that provides direct sales leads or actual sales–or exposures that put their brand really front and center in a very promotional manner. While these are factors that you’d probably use for push marketing efforts like advertising, electronic mail, and such, the same does not apply for PR.

When PR professionals talk about ROI, we often refer to non-financial measures like impressions, reach, message penetration, among other things. This is because up until today, except for very special cases, there is no exact way of measuring the direct to sales effects of PR. As such, I always advise that the metrics for success are well-established prior to the launch of any campaign.

5 Ways to Measure ROI in PR

  • Quantity and Quality of Media Placements

Never forget that the purpose of PR is to tell your stories and whatever it is that you’re promoting using platforms that your target audience regularly visit to consume information. That said, regardless of objective, it’s always advisable to get published on websites, papers, podcasts or any other platforms that already have a following. The question now is ‘How many media releases do you need to achieve to say that your efforts to get published has been a success?’ The answer will highly depend on two things: 1. Your budget (the higher your budget, the more man hours can be allocated to securing media opportunities and sending out tokens to the press) and; 2. The relevance of your story.

The thing with getting stories released is that there is never a guarantee that things will get published. A story, once pitched, will still have to go through several layers of approval before they appear on paper or the website. This is why we at Publicity for Good, always work hand in hand with our clients to make sure that whatever we pitch to the media is palatable for them and have a high chance of getting published.

Back to the quantity–historically, we at my agency have a [INSERT PERCENTAGE] success rate of getting published. This means that out of [INSERT NUMBER] media pitches, we get a minimum of [INSERT NUMBER] releases. This is what we use as the basepoint for new clients. For older clients though, we use a percentage that is based on historical engagements in relation to their budget. Example, I’ve worked with a client who I was able to get 10 major releases for a budget of $10,000. Using the ratio between the two, I’d commit a minimum of 5 major releases if he decides to get our services again for a budget of $5,000.

  • Exposure metrics

Website traffic, average reach per social media post, average impressions or pageviews, these are all exposure metrics that give you a good gauge of how many people were able to see published materials. If you’re partnering with an influencer or booking paid articles with websites, it’s important to get these details both prior to executing your materials and after you’ve executed them so that you know full well how they performed. Most publishers will actually commit minimum pageviews for your article if this was a paid placement.

Exposure metrics are especially important if the objective of the campaign is to create awareness about a specific product, promo, or whatever it is you’re trying to promote. 

  • Engagement rate

This one is specific to social media influencers and is something you’d want to keep tab of if the objective of your campaign is to move people down the marketing funnel through the use of consideration materials. Engagement is a good way to measure influence, especially if the feedback you get from an influencer’s post is that mainly of their followers having a positive view of your brand or wanting to try your product because of the influencer’s post. 

To get the hard numbers on this one, all you need to do is to ask the influencer for their current engagement rate. Currently, what most marketers and influencers do to produce this data is by taking the average engagement rate of their past 10 posts. 

After this, you need to ask the influencer to provide you with the engagement rate of the post you asked them to produce for you, a week after it was uploaded. This way, you’ll be able to gauge if the content performed well or if you need to tweak your messaging for upcoming engagements.

Take note that like most things, engagement rates also fluctuate, so you’ll need to get this data every time you are about to engage an influencer. 

  • Media Values

One of the more traditional ways of measuring ROI is through the advertising equivalency approach. This number provides you a good idea of the value of your PR placements. Although most experts would agree that this is not the best way to actually measure the efficacy of a campaign, it is the closest thing that you’ll get to if you’re looking for actual monetary figures generated by a campaign.

  • Share of Voice

This is a metric that you will need to measure in partnership with media companies that offer digital services. Share of voice is basically the estimate of the market your brand owns compared to competitors. It is a good indicator of brand visibility and just really how much of the general industry conversation you’re part of. 

Share of voice is something that PR heavily affects. Although if you were to ask me (or other experts) about how heavily PR is able to influence this metric, we won’t be able to give you a set number. 

Another thing to take note of is that share of voice is done periodically and takes time to be affected (unless you’re running a very big campaign with loads of media budget), so you need to discuss this several times with your partners before moving forward.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, business coach, aspiring PR professional or someone who has just gotten your start in the industry, if you’re someone who wants to learn more about how to create your own campaign and get things featured in publications, I am personally inviting you to my 10-Week PR Certification Program. I shall be launching this very soon. Let me share my knowledge with you and allow me to also learn from you so that together we can grow and become more well-rounded professionals in our respective fields.

Heather DeSantis is the CEO and Founder of Publicity for Good (PFG) and Good Side News. Former Miss Ohio International, she leads the firm with a mission to partner with companies who are committed to making the world a better place. Heather has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Entrepreneur, iHeart Media, Business Insider, MSN, Forbes and Inside Edition for her life of living and working full time from an Airstream travel trailer with her fiance Austin.


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