Sep 19, 2017 / by Lacey Miller

There’s an old adage that goes, “That which is measured improves.” It’s true. If you judge a sales person’s performance by the number of calls she makes in a week, she’ll likely make a lot of calls. If you define marketing success by website traffic, marketers will find ways to get people to the site. There’s nothing wrong with measuring these sorts of things. The problem is when they are the only things that are measured or when these measurements take on oversized importance. The phone calls and website traffic are merely a means to an end. What you really care about is whether your salespeople and marketers are doing things that lead to engaged prospects, leads, and sales. The exact same thing is true of earned media.
Measuring Quantity is Very Tempting
When we chat with folks about making the transition to measuring quality vs. just the quantity of mentions, we get some common objections. Here are the ones we hear most often.
Mentions is an objective measurement of PR, quality is subjective. We suppose it is true that mentions is an objective measurement, but quality no longer has to be subjective. With the right tools in place, it is possible to track the impact from each mention and tie it to the objectives of the business. This isn’t voodoo; it’s data.
Our competitors have a ton of mentions, so we need them too. Do you know if those mentions are producing results for your competitors? If the mentions aren’t strategic, chances are good that your competitors are spending a lot of energy and money on efforts that don’t amount to much.
Aren’t more mentions, followers, and likes better? Sure, if you have unlimited resources. But chances are you have only a finite number of hours and money to spend, so you have to make smart decisions about how to use the resources that you have. In that case, more isn’t always better. As Steve Jobs once said, “Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is better than two doubles.”
I don’t know how to measure quality. Fair enough. Let’s expand on that.
How to Measure Quality Instead
We urge folks to think about quality coverage in a number of ways and at different points in the PR cycle. Here are some quality benchmarks to consider.
Earned Media Quality
Before investing your time targeting a particular publication or pitching a certain writer, you should first evaluate the quality of the audience. First, you’ll want to determine if the audience is a good fit for your brand. Would an article that talks about your products or services be relevant to the people who read that publication regularly? Does it make sense geographically if that’s relevant? How large is the audience? How many visitors are return visitors? 
Social Media Quality
Is your social media strategy working? How would you know if it was or wasn’t? Lots of people simply count up the number of likes or followers and give themselves a high five, but what you really want on social media isn’t a large audience, it’s an engaged audience. If your social media strategy is working, you should see people spreading your content and mentions on their own networks. You should see comments, questions, and other signs of interaction. You want to understand the total reach of each post, not just the number of people who see it on your own network.
PR Quality
Ultimately, your PR efforts should be measured by how they impact important business metrics. This requires first understanding what those metrics are. Why are you doing PR? If it is just because the CEO likes seeing your name splashed around, then go ahead and focus on vanity metrics like mentions and followers. If on the other hand, you are investing in PR to grow the business, you’ll want to focus on metrics that prove that out like website traffic, lead form submissions, and PR assisted sales.
Understanding quality across all of your PR activities and results is easiest when you have advanced PR analytics software that is integrated with Google Analytics and in sync with data from your marketing automation and/or CRM systems. Armed with better insight into what activities and publications have the most impact, you’ll be able to craft a strategy that maximizes your resources and produces a provable return on investment.

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About Lacey Miller

Passionate about public relations and empowering practitioners, Lacey Miller found her dream job at TrendKite, where she carries the crown of 'word nerd'. With a background in public relations and technology, she's a great fit with her desire to innovate the industry! You can find her most days writing for PR Forward, PRSA, and other marketing trade publications.