PR Measurement

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.



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 consultants 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 agencies, 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 trialled 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.

On Clip-Counting and Impressions

From the AMEC guide: Clips and impressions alone are meaningless.

Kacey’s Take: “Meaningless” is bit harsh, though these metrics barely scratch the surface on measurement. For example, impressions, while necessary, don’t tell where on the scale of apathy to loyalty someone feels when exposed to your brand or product. In fact, they don’t tell whether or not the person even looked at the content relevant to you! Regardless, we still need to report them — but not as standalone metrics.


AMEC: AVE (advertising value equivalency) does not relate to PR and should not be used to measure campaigns.

Kacey’s Take: Advertising is not PR, so trying to measure PR using an ad metric just doesn’t make sense! In PR, articles are subject to the editorial process and thus, some may be more positive than others. It is a risk companies are willing to take when they use PR tactics because homerun pick-ups are extraordinarily valuable. Basically, PR is designed to actually impact the way customers and other stakeholders think and what they do, and it should be measured as such.

On Using Primary Research to Start

AMEC: Start a campaign with qualitative research of the consumer — for B2B, accompany a sales rep for a day, for example.

Kacey: Not all customers are equal, and primary research uncovers their nuances. For example, I conducted in-depth interviews with insurance brokers on behalf of an insurance company. What we found was surprising: for various reasons, brokers selling to small businesses were leaving the profession. This was alarming to this client in particular, who had been successfully investing in marketing to this group for many years. Without the in-depth qualitative questioning, this important fact may otherwise not have been uncovered to the same degree.

On Using Primary Research to End

AMEC: Use primary research as well to calculate items such as “Net Promoter Score” (NPS®).

Kacey: Primary research plays a key role in the leap from output to outcomes. For example, it is required for calculating a NPS. On a regular basis one could measure a sample of the customer base by asking on a scale how likely they would recommend the brand or product. They would use this scale to determine “promoters” and “detractors” and calculate a final NPS from that. This metric works best not alone, but with a handful of other outcome-based metrics such as tone and message penetration.


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