Skip Navigation Accessibility Statement

How Do You Measure PR? Expert Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Professional woman using computer and phone

Measurement is critical in today’s media landscape. Combing through the data of your campaigns can help quickly identify the elements and messaging that worked, those that didn’t, and help develop more effective strategies for the future.

PR measurement can also help prove and justify investment, something that’s even more important now that, according to the recent Global Comms Report, 47% of comms leaders now report directly to the CEO. But where do you begin if you’re new to all things measurement? Cision UK’s recent Measurement 101 webinar, led by our UK Insights team directors Camille Rollason and Alex Alsworth, provided an introductory look at best practices and how to make sense of audiences and data.

During the panel they surveyed webinar attendees to get a sense of the challenges they face in obtaining budgets for earned campaigns and which parts of the measurement journey they find hardest to accomplish. See below for the poll results:

 

The discussion also included an audience Q&A (with the questions from the webinar answered below), but with time pressing Camille and Alex weren’t able to answer all the queries. They took the opportunity to answer some of the additional questions below to provide a handy measurement FAQ.

Where should you start if you’ve never had a measurement program before?

Alex: I think the key is to start simple. Especially if you need internal buy-in. Not every measurement program needs to be multifaceted and drilling into every bit of minutiae. Set some simple, informed KPIs for yourself – test learn and progress. If you don’t have a baseline to begin with, consider some smaller pieces of work to develop that context.

Either looking at your own averages and outputs or the conversations around key competitors, the wider industry and share of voice. Setting that context yourself around how you’re doing compared to others can be an effective, simple way of setting the scene.

From that simple start, you can go on a bit of a journey, take your stakeholders with you and gradually increase the complexity and scope of what you’re trying to evaluate. Think about building around a framework, really ensure you’re planning ahead [and that] you’ve had the right conversations, and make sure you’re getting what you need out of it.

The key is to start simple. Especially if you need internal buy-in. Not every measurement program needs to be multifaceted and drilling into every bit of minutiae.

How do you measure a competitor's share of volume, reach and tonality – especially in a very niche market?

Camille: It's interesting that the question was posed was particularly for a niche market. Maybe I'm taking it too literally, but it should be possible, even with just two organizations, to measure share voice. Indeed, it can be hard to crawl the coverage if it’s particularly niche. But I think the key thing with share of voice, it shouldn’t be taken too simply by volume or volume + readership.

Smart share of voice measurement is important, considering things like prominence, for example. You may have a smaller share of voice compared to an industry peer, but maybe you’re landing almost 100% headline articles. That’s not necessarily the best job, but it says something. Volume shouldn’t be taken in isolation when it comes to share of voice.

Don’t think too obsessively about your place with a share of voice chart: I think the importance of measuring really comes down to what others are doing differently as opposed to the competitive angle. There’s so much more to it than whether a share of voice is growing or declining.

How does the advent of AI help best practice evaluation?

Alex: I don’t think AI is going to replace that kind of evaluation and insight [around] interpreting results. It may increase speed, [and] it may increase productivity, so I think we should be using it as a resource to speed up our work and to give ourselves more time to do more critical evaluation. In terms of what I I'm hoping we can use AI for, it’s to use our resources and time as well as possible.

What are the biggest risks associated with not measuring?

Camille: The attitude of putting something out there and hoping for the best is the equivalent of wandering around in the dark. It's great to get a grasp of how your coverage is landing, just to have some idea of awareness. To put it a bit more concretely, I think measurement is extremely key for the making different choices outcome.

If, say, you have a hunch or assumption that this topic is the biggest in your industry, and you need to be a part of it: if you don’t measure and just hope for the best, you’ll never know if it worked or not.

You might also not be aware that there’s another topic in the industry that’s growing, or you might not be aware that whatever messaging you’re putting out is not landing at all – or landing terribly. Month in, month out, it’s just a shot in the dark.

What are some alternatives to AVE, especially for clients that are very focused on the financial results of coverage? How would you suggest re-orienting those clients' expectations?

Camille: AVEs are limited as a measure, as they don’t account for qualitative considerations such as sentiment, prominence and message delivery. With those reasons in mind, it’s best to think about a more nuanced capturing of the prominence or impact of coverage, or measuring outcomes like a survey, shares or social engagement.

Finally, real PR value is not all in sales. Encourage your clients to think about the big picture – changing consumer behaviors in the long term – rather than viewing coverage as just a potential one-off boost to sales.

Real PR value is not all in sales. Encourage your clients to think about the big picture – changing consumer behaviors in the long term – rather than viewing coverage as just a potential one-off boost to sales.

My clients used to say that Gen Z doesn't consume traditional media outlets and tends to avoid investing in PR. Instead, they prefer measuring influencers by conversion rather than relying on media outlets. What's your point of view about this?

Camille: There is indeed a changing media landscape – print down, online up, subscriptions waning. Gen Z as an audience in the UK spend 77 minutes more than average on social media, and over-index heavily on brand discovery though celebrity endorsement, blogs, vlogs and social (according to Global Web Index data).

People tend to "age up" to an interest in news and current affairs as they get older, and it's always been that way. However, the sheer weight of time that the typical Gen Z consumer spends online means the visibility of earned media coverage (particularly via social media shares) remains exceptionally strong. In fact, higher percentages of Gen Z consumers report seeing content from outlets such as the CNN, BBC News and even The New York Times in the last month than their Gen Y counterparts.

The key thing is that the content is punchy, stands out and demands a click – because that age group probably won't go hunting for it themselves.

Traditional and social must also be measured alongside one another to get the full picture. Media outlets and their value aren't going away any time soon. Long form is where we still capture that detail, while social serves a different purpose.

Aligning measurement against both is key, regardless of generational view.

Traditional and social must also be measured alongside one another to get the full picture. Media outlets and their value aren't going away any time soon. Long form is where we still capture that detail, while social serves a different purpose.

How do we realistically measure reach and impact of digital coverage? I have had push back on the monthly unique users model and have been asked to report a more 'realistic' view - is that looking at daily figures or would you suggest another approach?

Alex: Like any “opportunity to see” metric, reach or readership figures will always produce high numbers, and it’s important to set context and expectations when interpreting these results. It’s often most useful when used over time and in context to track rise and fall rather than taking numbers as gospel. Even if it’s not “realistic,” using reach can still provide a useful weighting to analysis when exploring which media are most impactful.

Unique Visitors Daily (UVD) is a potential alternative to UVM if you are concerned about over-inflated numbers. These will still be large, but in a lot of cases are more reflective of the audiences, particularly for quick turnaround, high volume news sites, where stories are less likely to stay front and center for long.

Beyond that, in terms of refining, anything you can do to evaluate a “probability to see,” using elements such as mention prominence, headline presence, or other impact measures like this, can help add some clout to findings. It’s also important to consider a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis.

How do you balance understanding your audience with acknowledging that PR sits at the top of the marketing funnel?

Alex: The right messaging and positioning can affect brand reputation and visibility over time, even if not directly linked or attributable to a purchase. These long-term awareness considerations are important. Your output and messaging should still be shaped toward and informed by your potential and target audiences, and what you are looking to achieve, so starting on the right foot is vital.

It’s crucial to work within a framework that acknowledges your earned media efforts in the context of wider activities in paid, owned, shared [media] and their impact on the overall marketing funnel. PR evaluation [alone] cannot answer all those questions.

Ready to see how Cision can help transform your measurement strategy? Schedule a consultation with one of our experts today.