How to Measure Your PR in 7 Steps

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This post is an excerpt from the Measure and Maximize PR Impact guide.

PR, marketing and social media professionals face growing pressure to measure their efforts and show bottom-line results. But how do increased engagement and exposure from PR tactics impact the bottom line?

How to Measure PR

The days of reporting on impressions, “advertising value equivalency” (AVE) and social likes are waning. Executives tune out those numbers because they don’t mean anything. They are vanity metrics.

The days of reporting numbers that show a direct correlation with revenue and other quantifiable goals have arrived and are here to stay.

When executives ask why a PR budget should be increased, traditional PR professionals often struggle to tie campaigns to business metrics like increased revenue. Things like placement in print or even an appearance on a popular TV program like “The Today Show” don’t always translate to measurable bottom-line results.

In contrast, the new era PR professional is better equipped to explain why one print placement is more effective than another, even if the recommended publication’s advertising is more costly. They also have valid reasons for suggesting that a business appear on a television show; they have the demographics and buying behaviors to prove the potential return on investment.

Outputs, Outcomes and Results

PR Measurement - Bottom Line

Measuring PR isn’t a one-to-one ratio of an action resulting in a specific business result. While that sometimes happens, PR measurement is more about measuring three components, according to Ketchum Global Research & Analytics: outputs, outcomes and business results.


Outputs examine reach and content. They look at frequency, visits, tonality, message impact and journalist inquiries. In essence, they show activity in response to PR messaging across various channels.

Tip: Develop a scoring system in order to establish your baseline reach, then track future gains or subtractions to it.


Outcomes assess knowledge, opinions and attitudes. They examine awareness, recollection and purchasing intentions. As such, they are about an audience’s measurable changes in perception and/or behaviors.

Tip: Assess audience change with simple surveys. These can be one-off initiatives or a few questions added to existing surveys.


Business results address value of either increased revenue or decreased costs. They are based on contracts closed, employee retention, revenue/turnover and secondary purchases. This component assesses PR’s impact on the business or organization.

Tip: Work with marketing analytics to capture what PR efforts are driving sales, and which efforts are most effective.

With data from outputs, outcomes and business results, PR professionals can review and weigh it so that any of the three areas can be fine tuned and switched to a different direction.

Where Do I Start?

Starting Line - Measuring PR

Many businesses and organizations recognize the value in and necessity of measuring PR, but don’t know where to start. If they cut vanity metrics, what should they replace them with?

A number of PR organizations and professionals, including the Institute for PR, Katie Paine, Deirdre Breakenridge and Jay Baer, have seen the need for basic measurement standards or principles, and offer advice for implementing measurable PR metrics.

The Institute for PR makes available full-length measurement standards that agencies and businesses can use. The standards are found in a more abbreviated form in the Barcelona Principles:

1. Set goals. Goals are tied to both business results and desired, measurable changes in your target audience. Your goals should include reach, awareness, comprehension, attitude, and behavior.

  • Reach: What audience segment or percentage is to be “reached” with a specific message(s)?
  • Awareness: What will that segment see, hear, or read that they haven’t before?
  • Comprehension: What will that segment understand after seeing, hearing, or reading the message(s)?
  • Attitude: What emotion should the segment feel? Believe?
  • Behavior: What should the segment do after receiving the message(s)?

Tip: To ensure you write quantitative goals, answer the questions of who, what, when and how.

2. Map your efforts according to outputs, outcomes and business results. As you analyze your program, study the impact you have on the media and other channels, your target groups, and your business or organization.

3. Analyze your efforts. If possible, use an automated solution, like the Vocus PR Suite, that keeps all your data in one place. If that isn’t possible, start with something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet that maps outputs, outcomes and business results.

4. Don’t forget to monitor. You can do all the testing in the world, but you won’t get anywhere if you aren’t listening to the conversations around you. Use social media to assess brand sentiment and invest in resources like HARO to pitch stories.

5. Be transparent. Measuring PR is not cloak-and-dagger. If you’re asked for a report, you should be able to provide it then and there. The old model of PR reporting may have been a magic act, but the new one is based on data.

6. Don’t spin the numbers. You can make the numbers say anything, but don’t. Look at them carefully before deciding there’s a correlation between one data set and another. Also, before you present any findings, have someone proof your work. They may see something you missed or note an error.

7. Rinse and repeat. Your PR efforts should be replicable. That is, you shouldn’t have to start from scratch each and every time you have a new campaign. Tools like the Vocus PR Suite can help with this, but you can set up task reminders and segmented email lists on your own. Doing so will increase not only your efficiency, but also improve outputs, outcomes and business results.

Want to maximize the impact of your PR? Get your free Measure and Maximize PR Impact guide now!

Image: Bill Brooks, Niuton May, tableatny (Creative Commons)

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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