Answering the “Does PR Work” Question

I once worked with a client who measured the success of a public relations campaign by the number of friends who said they saw him on TV.

“If people stop me on the street and say I did a good job, I’ll be happy,” he used to say.

That’s certainly one way to gauge the success of a campaign, but in today’s data-driven world, most company executives demand more – expecting PR professionals to justify, in very real ways, the value of their work.

If only it were that easy.

Unlike advertising, which can be measured with leads and other quantifiable metrics, PR success is based on things that are intangible – perception, reputation and awareness.

While challenging, measuring the ROI of PR is not impossible. Here are a few ways to help you quantify the results of an earned media campaign:

  • Track the number of traditional and online press clippings that mention your client’s company or products and services.
  • Calculate media impressions by multiplying the number of press clips collected by the circulation of each publication. For example, if your story was published by the Wall Street Journal, which has a print/digital circulation of about two million readers, then you would estimate two million media impressions.
  • Determine your share of voice – the measure of the market your brand owns compared to competitors. It’s a good gauge for brand visibility and how much you are (or are not) dominating the conversation in your industry.
  • Monitor social media engagement – tracking brand mentions, likes, comments, shares, re-tweets, etc. will help you show the potential reach of the earned media coverage.

Remember, before beginning any campaign, work with your client to determine which metric most closely aligns with their goals. Otherwise, you’ll be chasing metrics that don’t really matter and wasting time that could be spent on pitching.