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PR measurement needs to move up a gear, says Mantis PR’s Gavin Loader

14th February 2013

Some traditional ways of measuring PR worth are valuable. I am 100 per cent behind such activities as measuring media article volume by month, reviewing the importance of the media outlet, and tone of the article. For social media, measuring subscribers monthly interactions and engagements and making use of some awesome third-party tools – free or commercial – makes sense.

Measuring outputs like this are all great ways of telling clients “we’re doing a good job“. However, I wish to challenge certain beliefs that are still current thinking.

First, I think, good PR outputs (speaking for my own technology/public sector industry) is more than just demonstrating the quality of media and or social media activity – it’s about managing the extension of influence into new and relevant influencer groups, “influencing influencers.” So how do we measure PR activity around industry analysts like Gartner or IDC; how do we measure our work with trade associations, government representatives and other industry influencers? These are important activities that shouldn’t be ignored or overlooked by measurement. My gut feel is that if agencies are not already, we need to extend the mechanism for measuring media/social media activity into these other mediums.

Second, the argument around PR measurement should have moved up a level by now. Agencies should be measuring impact of PR activities on the business. As a business owner myself, coverage volume, web hits, number of @mentions and RTs doesn’t really answer that question. Conversion KPIs probably don’t do it either. Not that Mantis is expensive (ahem), but we’d have to bag a lot of demo or PDF downloads from a client’s website to cover an agency fee each month!

Professor Anne Gregory from Leeds Met commented in an article recently suggesting that the PR industry simply needs to do more research. She says: “The thing that bedevils our industry is the focus on media coverage and that stems from the US. Media evaluation doesn’t measure impact and we have to get our heads around doing proper research.”

Commenting on a story on, Philip Lynch, head of international insight board at research firm Kantar Media Intelligence Europe, has similar views: “We need to move away from measurement of levels of activity and media output, which are relevant but do not convey the value of PR. One of the simplest ways to measure PR is to talk to stakeholders to find out if they trust the organisation and whether the communication makes them trust it more, or less."

Take those thoughts from Prof’ Gregory and Philip Lynch and marry both with the IPR’s Barcelona Principles (number five in particular, which suggests measuring outcomes is preferable to media results) and I think we have the answer. Along with current thinking, PR measurement now needs to include cost-effective quantifiable and qualitative research, undertaken on a frequent, recurring basis, on behalf of clients to demonstrate positive change in:

Armed with new tools, plus typical media/social media measures and a review of hours and budget spent on PR, clients can now answer three important questions: How much time/budget are we investing in PR activity? Is our PR activity good, indifferent or bad? If our PR activity is good, is it actually making an impact on the business?

In summary, media/social media measures are still relevant today, but I question how many agencies are actually doing this for clients month-by-month or quarter-by-quarter? I wonder how many are frightened about being so open in the case the results are not favourable? I’m saying we need to extend these measures to other PR activities like working with industry analysts.

Moreover, I wonder how many agencies are really demonstrating business impact by measuring PR outcomes, talking – or at least thinking about – PR outcomes with clients?

Gavin Loader is joint managing director at Mantis Public Relations

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