3 Metrics That Matter When Measuring the Success of Your PR Campaigns

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I recently wrote a piece here on what ROI really looks like in company PR campaigns. Consider this part 2 of that discussion because we’ll now go beyond how ROI “success” is defined in terms of outcomes for your company and take things a step further by presenting tools and technologies you can use to evaluate your PR impact empirically.

First, it’s important to understand what we mean when discussing ROI tracking. At my company, a boutique PR firm that services a wide array of industry sectors, we track results across three main categories — website, social media, and press — and we use the data generated in each category to report to clients on campaign performance and progress. A host of tools and applications generates the tracking data, some applicable to any kind of business and some geared specifically to the PR/marketing space.

Now, I’m not personally plugging any of these options or touting one brand of tool over another — there are literally scores to choose from; the point is simply to share with you ways you can measure how much bang you’re getting for your buck when you engage in both general and more targeted outreach.

Category #1: Website performance

The central tool most companies employ to track website performance is, of course, Google Analytics, which is so powerful because of how much it can do, all behind the scenes, seamlessly and silently, at no extra cost or effort on the user’s part. Google Analytics contributes vitally to measuring the effectiveness of PR campaigns by providing in-depth insights into website traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates (e.g., form submissions or customer sales) after every individual PR outreach activity is initiated. You can also use Google Analytics to track referral sources, monitoring which media outlets and social media platforms generate the most traffic in response to assets like blogs and press releases.

Another tool that tracks website performance is Semrush, particularly for its strong SEO and competitive analysis features. For PR professionals, the platform offers multiple functions that enhance media outreach and content strategy by reporting on keyword effectiveness, which can be used when writing impactful press releases and articles that will consequently rank higher in online searches. There’s a brand monitoring feature as well, which follows all mentions of your brand across the web; in turn, this allows you to promptly respond to coverage your PR efforts generated — a great way to identify new opportunities to get ahead of your competition.

Related: Which Growth Metrics Actually Matter for Startups?

Category #2: Social media reach

While the purpose of social media may be to get as many people as possible to engage with your content as you perpetually build viewership and followership, a primary goal of social media tracking is to understand that audience you’re capturing. The more robust the data profiles on your following, the more you can refine your strategies, week by week and month by month, to consistently reach them. To generate that data, you can use such tools as the analytic capabilities of the Meta Business Suite and Path Social.

Like Google Analytics on your website, Meta’s analytics integrate effortlessly with your Facebook and Instagram accounts to optimize your usage of them for marketing and PR purposes and to garner insights on your target audience. By analyzing content performance along the lines of engagement, reach, and number of shares, you can repeat post strategies that landed well and revise those that didn’t; Meta can even provide content recommendations derived from follower preferences and historical behavior. On the tracking side, you can customize your metrics dashboard, produce detailed reports, and activate real-time monitoring — all of which serve as tangible evidence of your PR ROI.

Path Social is a tool concentrated on social media growth, an obvious bull’s-eye goal for any PR effort looking to enhance online presence and participation. However, the platform goes beyond just recruiting random followers to use organic approaches to attract the specific audience interested in your brand. Accordingly, metrics include audience demographics, optimal times of day to post, and trending topics and hashtags to incorporate. It’s a spiffy tool for niche PR that results in visible upticks to justify the investment in public relations.

Related: If You Aren’t Betting on the Media Industry, You Are Losing a Competitive Edge — Here’s Why.

Category #3: Press coverage

Long before social media took the world by storm, the press was a principal vehicle for publicizing businesses, promoting brands, and disseminating messaging. Today, it’s all gone digital, and there’s no shortage of distribution and tracking outlets to choose from, including longtime staples Cision and Connectively (previously HARO).

An option I rely on is Muck Rack, which offers a comprehensive database of journalists, bloggers, and influencers and lets me manage all my media relations and journalism outreach in one hub. A big advantage of tools like Muck Rack is the ability to zero in on the most appropriate contacts for any given story, after which you can see who actually opened your emails and clicked on links. These metrics thus measure the effectiveness of your pitches and provide data that can inform future strategies to produce ever-improving results.

To show businesses the impact of their publicity campaigns, Releasd is a go-to source. It’s very user-friendly, it creates great-looking reports that compile data in an easily digestible format, and it can integrate more than just media coverage, like social media metrics and website analytics. With Releasd performing up-to-the-minute tracking of all media mentions for all of my clients so I can show them their press hits in a snap, I’m free to concentrate my efforts on the creative side of PR.

Some PR measurement tools are pricey, some are quite affordable, and some are virtually free — built into the platforms you already pay for — so any type of business with any sized budget can find channels and mechanisms to suit their needs with a little ingenuity. For example, Shopify is not a tracking tool, but I’ve found it to be an informative platform for observing the impact of PR campaigns on sales growth from an e-commerce perspective.

So consider incorporating these and other PR tools into your workflow. Through them, you can gain a much richer understanding of how your publicity investment is reaping rewards and communicate the value of it to stakeholders. Whether you want to expand your media outreach, automate the monitoring of brand mentions, or deepen your social media footprint, there are tools to help you do it effectively and efficiently, giving you an edge in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

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