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Why is the PR industry so scared of measuring results?

Measuring outcomes in the PR industry is notoriously tricky. Improving brand awareness, for example, is a huge part of the value of PR. However, it can be almost impossible to quantify and track. Many PR agencies shy away from measuring the impacts of their work altogether, leaving their clients in the dark about the value of their partnership. Even today, vanity metrics such as impressions, advertising value equivalent, or follower counts are too heavily relied on. Whilst these numbers can appear impressive, they're not enough to give clients a clear and accurate picture of the value generated by PR activities.

These vanity metrics give little insight into the impact on business growth and revenue, which is what clients are looking for. This is increasingly true in an economic climate where budgets are often tight and resources are hard-won. A lack of demonstrable impact and confusion over results can lead to unhappy and dissatisfied clients, who will ultimately question if PR is worth their time and budget.

Coverage is not king

Whilst these metrics can still have their place, specific value and outcome-based measurements are paramount to success. However exciting a mention in Forbes may be, it’s not necessarily the best way to reach your target audience to drive the desired outcomes. If your client is a SaaS payments start-up selling to other fledgling companies, for example, though it may be flattering, coverage in The Times is going to do little to target actual customers.

Embracing a shift away from vanity to value metrics makes the benefits of PR indisputable. Data-driven impact measurement can demonstrate the value of PR outputs and help improve client relationships and retention. How and what you measure will be unique to each client and their objectives and should aim to meet individual business needs and the goals of the partnership.

A sustained approach

Rather than just measuring impressions, monitoring website traffic and conversions can give a deeper insight into how well the messaging has resonated with audiences and driven them further down the sales funnel. Instead of counting the number of pieces of coverage, tracking increased search demand and rankings can better indicate the success of a campaign.

A sustained ongoing approach to measurement and reporting can also be beneficial. Leaving tracking and reporting till the end of the campaign, quarter, or even year misses the opportunity to iterate and improve whilst the PR activity is ongoing. Rather than acting on gut instinct or feeling alone, a continuous, sustained engagement with performance analysis can give accurate, actionable insights to improve the performance of campaigns.

Useful tools

Analytics tools and marketing technologies are useful to track campaigns in real time to give live insights into performance and reach. These platforms can also detect data anomalies and monitor market expansion efforts by identifying which countries, regions and cities are interacting with your brand.

A data and value-focused approach towards metrics and measurements can easily and clearly demonstrate the power of PR. This visibility of value and performance strengthens client relationships and helps achieve buy-in from all stakeholders. C-suite level executives, for example, may not be aware of the everyday activities and value generated by PR and, therefore, question its worth. Consistent performance data metrics that give insight into how PR activity directly helps achieve business goals and objectives make it easy for clients, investors, and board members to see the merits of PR. Ultimately, this is crucial for continued support and investment in a climate where PR budgets are often disputed and cut.

Written by Adam Malik, co-founder at comms agency Bloxspring.

Find out more about AI and PR measurement in this recent feature here or register for our next free to attend webinar on "How to track the success of an earned media campaign."

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