This post was first published by Nate Hubbell on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

PR measurement is an art and science that even many of the brightest minds in the industry haven’t quite figured out yet, and certainly not perfected. Earlier this month, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), the UK Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) and the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) came together to release a powerful guide on PR measurement.

Since March prides itself on “taking the guesswork out of PR,” the March Insights team has delved into the guide to help hone our own tactics and processes for both measurement and research. Below is Part One of a two-part series where Nate Hubbell provides some thoughts on a few of the key points that resonated with him the most, and some thoughts on where they can be further refined or improved. Kacey Albertine will post offer her thoughts in Part Two.

On Output vs. Outcomes

From the AMEC guide: Reporting on output (i.e. impressions, hits) is table stakes and should be included in PR measurement reports, but outcomes (i.e. increased number of visitors to owned content) are what are required in this day and age. “Become obsessive about ‘how did this change behaviour?’ not how much coverage it got.”

Nate’s Take: Two important observations here. First, output measurement is beyond table stakes — it is the rule of the game. Output measurement must be done well and presented in a way that executives can understand and will actually use. Second, I like the notion of trying to measure how PR changed behavior, but I think even more important is connecting it to the sales pipeline. Did PR create leads? What are those leads worth in terms of lifetime value?

On Measuring PR’s Business Goals

AMEC: PR professionals should actively work to directly align their objectives with business goals — rather than aiming to just increase media presence, the objective should be specific and read with an action statement, timeline, target audience, and measurement outcome.

Nate’s Take: This builds on my second observation above, but in some cases I think these objectives can be even further refined. For example, I have worked with clients to build press relationships that result in unpaid opportunities for executives to present on webinars. In exchange for their time, the publications agreed to share the webinar lead lists, creating several hundred leads from PR for the sales process. A reasonable goal then for PR, in some cases, not all, may be to actually provide new, warm leads and then track their sales’ outcome.

On PR Measurement Costs

AMEC: Invest time into the evaluation provider on budgets and scopes because it will pay dividends down the line.

Nate’s Take: This is an important aspect to consider both for the agency and the client. As mentioned, the rules of the game now require very solid output reporting as a benchmark, but it should be able to be done at a reasonable interval without impacting other elements of the program. After that, though, there needs to be dialogue about what other forms of measurement are required, and how much time they will take. If the measurement is done properly, the added cost of doing so will prove its value, and then some.

On Using SaaS-based PR Measurement Tools

AMEC: Do not rely on SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms alone to monitor and measure your work in social media.

Nate’s Take: I can’t tell you how true this is. Especially if you are not Pepsi, Apple, or some other already-established brand name. We work with small-to-midsize, mostly private, “challenger” brand companies. We have trialed dozens of tools to help automate monitoring, and they all leave large gaps when compared to doing it manually. The challenge becomes balancing the use of SaaS-based tools with manual processes.