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How do I prove that PR works? Most of us have been asked this question at some point by our clients. Whether it’s showing that our communications efforts are increasing sales or whether we’re reaching the people whose opinions we need to influence—we need to be able to measure the true business impact and value we generate for our clients. With that in mind, here are the top three things to think about when starting a conversation with our clients about effective measurement.

1. Don’t start with metrics—start with objectives. Effective measurement frameworks unite all work streams around a unified point of view of what our overall strategy is trying to accomplish. The objectives of both the plan and each individual component should be clearly explained using S.M.A.R.T goals—or in other words, goals that are specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.

2. Consider the whole communications process. Most traditional PR metrics only measure how much content we are putting out there (number of placements) and how many people could potentially see it (impressions). Beyond that, though, we need to consider how people are engaging with that content (sharing or commenting), to what extent it impacts the conversation (media tracking), as well as if it is changing behavior or opinions (digital analytics and primary research).

3. Optimization is as important as success tracking. We believe in the value of holistic measurement, not only demonstrating how we shift media and social conversations, but also leveraging primary research, advanced analytics, and data modeling to map the way to continuous improvement and optimization. While we should be defining 3-4 metrics that will indicate our overall success, we should also be integrating metrics across all work streams to understand why we are succeeding or what would be standing in our way of continued growth.

Brandon Parrott-Sheffer is a Director in the Chicago office.

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