PR Metrics that matter: Why they are essential for your brand

Saying PR can improve the awareness and authority of your brand sounds great, but how do you back this up? This article will explain the key PR metrics that matter when you need to prove the power of PR. We’ll also give you the tools to perfect your PR campaign. Understanding these metrics will not only help you measure success, but will give you insights into how you should develop your PR strategy, for optimal business growth results. The efforts of PR are not only focused on building brand awareness, but also on establishing brand authority. This is difficult to directly measure, given that awareness and authority requires long-term focus. That being said, optimizing your PR strategy (with the accompanied PR measurement metrics) is key in unlocking your marketing advantage!

March 18, 2021 |

19 minutes

Photo of Matias Rodsevich, PR expert and author of the article

CEO of PRLab

Photo of a laptop measuring PR KPI's and PR metrics

1

Introduction to PR metrics

The Oxford Dictionary defines metrics as a ‘system or standard of measurement’. In line with this definition and from a communications perspective, PR metrics can be understood as ‘a set of statistics that measure results’.

Such as with any communications strategy, PR initiatives want to see value-adding results that positively impact business growth. That’s why we monitor and measure our PR campaigns, to see if we’re heading in the right direction or if we need to redirect, in order to meet our goals.

This is where PR metrics play a critical role, {they keep record of the ongoing project and follow the status of said project, to ensure that the end goal is achieved}.

Important to remember is that, no matter what you’re measuring, the results should be quantifiable. For example, an increase in monthly website traffic is a quantitative metric, because you can count the number of site visitors. This supports the business context of, for example, growing brand-consumer engagement through employing PR tactics.

SUMMARY

PR metrics are a quantifiable set of measurements that tracks the performance of a specific PR project. They are set up with the objective to ensure that the overall communications goals are met. In other words, metrics are numeric values that reflect if business growth is being achieved.

2

The need to know about PR KPIs

Before jumping straight into the metrics, we need to understand the key performance indicators for public relations (PR KPIs). KPIs are different from metrics. So, what are public relations KPIs? This is a set of working measurements that calculate the numeric results of your efforts. They track and quantify your performance rates. Simply put, they show if you’re hitting your goals.

KPIs and PR metrics are not the same thing!
KPIs: Indicates if you’re hitting your goals, the specific targets, with quantifiable data.
Metrics: Records the status of an ongoing project, the specific process.

In PR, the KPIs are dependent on the marketing field. They give you insights into which campaigns are successful and what focus points to improve on. The great thing about KPIs is that they make goals tangible and give you a competitive benchmark to track your performance against.

Public Relation KPIs are not just ‘nice to haves’, they form a valuable index of business growth. Remember, always start with the item that will have the greatest business impact. That’s your key driver, or item, to focus on. Depending on the type of business and your strategy, you will have a unique set of KPIs.

The same goes for your metrics. Keep in mind that KPIs show if you are achieving your PR objectives - hitting targets. Metrics, on the other hand, record the status of a specific process.

SUMMARY

KPIs are different from metrics in that they are concerned with hitting the holistic PR goals. PR metrics is what you use to measure the performance of your ongoing efforts.

3

8 PR Metrics That Matter

Now that we’re familiar with the difference between KPIs and metrics. We can continue to focus on the PR metrics that matter. We’ve identified eight of the best PR metrics that can’t mislead you, in terms of the numbers.

List of the 8 PR metrics that measure public relations campaigns
SUMMARY

Mentions within the media are good visibility for your brand, and can provide additional insight about consumer perception and trending thoughts about your brand.

1. Web Visitors

There’a a few independent web analytics that you can use to track your site performance and to understand site optimization. From a PR perspective, you should see an increase in visitors or traffic that corresponds to your PR campaigns.

For example, if you’ve just secured a press release in a top tier publication, your traffic should increase as people read about your brand. Important to know is that, when monitoring PR metrics over digital channels, your data is coming from different types of visitors. Each being a unique individual.

3 types of visitors to consider:

  • Returning visitors: Visitors coming back to your site more than once, multiple times
  • New unique visitors: First time visitors
  • Mobile visitors: Visits from smartphone devices, not desktop.

Returning Visitors

A high number of returning visitors is a great sign of success and can be used to measure the engagement and authority of your site. The purpose of PR is to build a good reputation and secure long lasting connections. Having an audience that returns to you is a great show of success.

If you have a low retention rate or if your returning visitors are declining, consider changing your content marketing strategy. You need to know what information your audience is searching for, what their needs are and how you can offer a solution for them.

The format of content is highly important in converting returning visitors to brand loyalists. Does your audience like blogs, podcasts, video content or webinars? What elements do you need to add (or remove) to have your target audience return to you?

SUMMARY

More returning visitors mean higher site authority. This is a great measurement of success because it shows longevity in building connection with your audience. For this to happen, you need to research the type of content that carries meaning for your target audience.

New unique visitors

New visitors can be used to measure how PR efforts have affected the awareness of your brand. An influx in visitors means that more people are checking you out. It’s also common to use this metric to measure SEO efforts, with a good SEO strategy crucial to perform well on search engines and give your website more reach, authority and thus traffic.

SUMMARY

PR plays a role in creating brand awareness. New visitors, coming from reference sites, mean that your publications or media mentions are successful in driving website traffic.

Mobile visitors

Mobile vs desktop visitors tell you a lot about the device preferences of the audience. Since smartphone users are increasing, news and content is growingly being consumed from mobile. You need to ensure that your content is optimized for this, with good functionality and digestible information that’s suited to people reading/listening on the move.

SUMMARY

Make sure your content is optimized for small screen viewership. Your material should be easily digestible, so that mobile visitors have comfort while reading/listening.

How to measure web traffic

Google Analytics is great for tracking where your visitors are coming from, what device they’re using and if they’re new or returning visitors. In running a business, it’s crucial to understand the sources of online traffic and where your visitors come from. By gathering visitor data from the start, you’re able to pick up on user behaviour and consult the data for insights into why and how visitors access your website.

Guide of how to use Google Analytics to measure PR metrics

Semrush Traffic Analytics is an online management platform that you could also consult to finetune your traffic acquisition strategy. With Semrush, you’re able to run an analysis to see where competitors’ traffic is coming from and also track your own visitors’ behaviour. You could also take a deeper look into your niche to use historic traffic data to plan your next move along with consumer trends.

SUMMARY

Google Analytics is probably the most popular tool to measure traffic. It gives you a long list of insights from where your visitors are coming from, the device they’re using and what content they’re accessing. Semrush can help you with competitor traffic analysis and to perfect your acquisition strategy.

2. Referrals

A referral is how somebody finds their way onto your website and traffic analytics programs can show how many people are coming through your different media channels. Keep in mind, online publications may not always include a link to your website when mentioning you and some readers may go directly to your website through a search engine.

It is important to know where your traffic is coming from, since you don’t want to spend time or money on publications, platforms and channels that won’t benefit your PR initiatives. Although referrals don’t cover all your traffic sources, they are easy to monitor. For example, when publishing on a new news site for the first time (with backlinks) you can see if the site generates referral traffic for you.

It’s good to know where your earned media and paid media is getting you, in terms of referrals. "The goal of PR is to attract the right kind of traffic, not necessarily to increase site traffic. So, PR managers should leverage their media connections to establish relevant and worthwhile referrals.

SUMMARY

Referrals show how someone finds their way onto your website from another publication site. Keep in mind that referrals don’t cover all your traffic sources, but they account for where you have backlinks from other sources.

How to measure referrals

Google Analytics is limited in its ability to measure referrals accurately. However, you can still consult it for Referral Reports to monitor your business listings sites, social media traffic and organic search traffic.

When your PR efforts land you an online publication, you’ll often get a backlink to your site. These will also show in your Referral Report. With backlinks, you can monitor the impact gained from PR to see the value adding benefits.

You can always manually compile where your referrals are coming from. For example, sending a survey to your new and returning customers that asks how they found you. This is also a good way to get feedback from your customers in terms of their media consumption habits, what content they frequently access and where.

SUMMARY

With Google Analytics, you are able to access referral reports. Since publications won’t also include backlinks, you could reach out to your customers directly to ask how they found you.

3. Conversions

A conversion happens when a site visitor acts on your call to action. Usually performing a business transaction with you, for example making a purchase or investing in a service.

Closing clients and winning business deals is a coveted result of PR efforts and the ultimate measurement of success. Conversions can be difficult to calculate, however you can roughly calculate the average amount of conversions you need from qualified leads by consulting your sales data.

How to measure conversions

With Google Analytics and a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can easily identify how many daily site visitors you need to attract. From here, you can calculate how many customers to convert in order to grow your business.

SUMMARY

Conversions are coveted results for any PR agent. Conversions might be difficult to measure from Google Analytics alone. The smartest option would be to consult your sales team and set a benchmark for annual client acquisitions. From here you can monitor if conversions are on track.

4. Domain authority

Domain authority describes the relevance of a website for a specific subject area or industry. Your score is calculated by a search engine ranking processor that points to how likely a website is to rank in search engine result pages. Measured in percentages, average domain authority is between 40 and 50, up to 60 is good and above 60 is excellent.

It is important to consider your domain authority score when trying to rank against competitors. Your score indicates your site’s respectability, influencing how you rank against competitors. Even with a low score, as long as it is higher than your competitors, your website can still be highly visible.

Your score is affected by the quality and relevance of your content as well as its centrality, which is how strong the network of backlinks and external links are between your website and others.

SUMMARY

Domain authority describes the relevance of a website for a specific subject area or industry. It’s based on calculations made from the quality and relevance of your content as well as its centrality.

Backlinks

A backlink is created when one website links to another, and is sometimes referred to as inbound or incoming links. These links are very important as they essentially represent a vote of confidence in your website.

Search engines like Google use backlinks as a means of measuring a website's authority. If you have many reputable websites linking to yours, Google will factor this into its algorithm, inferring that because your content is worth linking to, it is worth showing to people, thus performing higher on search engine results.

We mention reputation here, as not every backlink is born equal. Links from popular and trustworthy sites will benefit you more than low authority, obscure websites. While it’s not that important in measuring your PR strategy, it’s worth noting that the same works for the external links you provide on your website, so it’s important to only link to high authority websites.

SUMMARY

Google uses backlinks to measure your website's authority, which is factored into calculating your page rank. Backlinks also benefit your website's credibility.

How to measure DA

Moz employs a machine learning model that uses algorithms and relevant data to calculate domain authority scores. Their scores are based on thousands of real search results that they use as a standard to scale against.

To view your domain authority and that of your competitors, simply login to Moz. Their step-by-step guide helps you to get going with your analytics, quickly and efficiently. This is a fast and easy way to see how your scores compare to your competitors’ domain authority.

SUMMARY

You don’t need to do hard math to calculate your domain authority. Moz is an online tool you can use to see your domain authority score and to measure yourself against that of competitors.

5. Social Shares

Social media performance should not be overlooked in your PR campaigning. Afterall, PR is the management of your communication channels. Leveraging social media outlets is now a big part of PR, be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.

Optimizing your social content for optimal PR gain is recommended, especially with the amount of consumers now using mobile devices to access the internet and to look for social interactions.

PR specialists can use a range of indicators to track progress across these channels. Where possible, social shares should be tied to business and revenue growth, as this is a key indicator of effective social media strategies.

SUMMARY

Make sure to optimize your social content for optimal PR gain. Keeping track of your social shares gives you insight into what content your social media audience finds engaging.

How to measure social shares

Different websites have different metrics to measure this, retweets vs shares on Twitter and Facebook for example, but in general they all have similar metrics you can use.

It is important to keep in mind that every website and social platform is unique, meaning they all serve to fulfill different purposes. In turn, a unique measurement criteria set will accompany each platform, according to their goals and functions.

Facebook Insights, Instagram Business, Sprout Social, HubSpot and Google Analytics are some of the best analytics tools to use to track your social performance. With these tools you can deep dive into your performance on a single platform or simultaneously compare results across multiple networks.

Facebook page impressions, Twitter link clicks, Instagram growth and reach, content performance, outbound hashtag performance, reposts and shares, etc. All of these are examples of what you can document to keep up to date with your social sharing performance.

SUMMARY

Each platform will have its own measuring system and tools. However, you can still consult Sprout Social, HubSpot and Google Analytics for dashboard information, regarding your social performance.

6. Engagement

Engagement is a metric that tracks how involved your audience is with your content and can be measured by various interactions such as likes, comments or shares. Having a high engagement rate means that you have a healthy, responsive audience who finds your content interesting, enjoyable or useful.

Keep in mind that PR can be a component of your holistic marketing strategy. However PR seeks a different type of engagement than that of marketing and/or advertising. A narrowed down, targeted PR campaign is essentially the most accurate in calculating engagement.

You can always measure likes, comments and shares. But, you can also go deeper into the descriptive data of how and why people engage with your content. This depends on your customized reasons for tracking engagement.

Likes, comments, shares etc. These are individual metrics that can be measured.
Post engagement rate. Number of people who interact with content divided by the amount of people who saw it. 
Organic mentions, where your brand is mentioned without prompting is a good sign of brand awareness.
SUMMARY

Engagement shows how involved your audience is with your content and keeps tabs on how they like to interact with your brand.

How to measure engagement

Tracking engagement can be done within the specific platform in question’s analytics tools. For example, Instagram Insights and Facebook Insights. It will not only help to demonstrate the success of a PR strategy, but also to highlight what content people are engaging with.

Through engagement monitoring, you will be able to identify the type of content that your audience enjoys and see what website pages perform well. This way you can tailor your content to make it more likely to succeed in the first place.

SUMMARY

Remember, each social platform and website is unique and will have different types of interaction measurements. The type of interaction you seek is also dependent on the format of your content.

7. Mentions

A mention is when a brand is referred to in the media or ‘mentioned’ on the web. Mentions are usually exclusive to social media, but they can also refer to online publications and blogs. This is a type of informative metric, as they help measure brand visibility and encompass PR initiatives.

Through mentions, you can establish good visibility and also gain additional insights about what consumers think and trends related to your brand.

In RP, favourable mentions carry the benefit of increased organic search value for your brand. Your brand credibility is also influenced by mentions, so you want to document what’s being said about you and the features your brand name makes online.

SUMMARY

Mentions count each time you’re referred to in the media. Mentions from social media, online publications and blogs can all be counted. You want to know how frequently you’re mentioned and in what light.

How to measure mentions

Google Alerts is an online source that can notify you about new results across the entire web. However, it is limited in some ways. For social streams, Hootsuite allows you to monitor conversations relevant to your business, industry and products. You can monitor what people are saying based on keywords, hashtags, locations, and even make it more specific to unique users.

SUMMARY

Setting up Google Alerts is a good place to start. Next you can consult more specific software to monitor your social media mentions.

8. Media Reach

If your goal is to increase brand awareness (let’s be honest, we can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be) then social media metrics can provide some tangible solutions to lock down and give evidence of this rather slippery brand quality.

Measuring awareness has always been rather tricky, however, with developing metrics this is no longer the case. We can now measure both impressions and reach. But what are these? In simple terms:

  • Impressions: How many times an individual sees a piece of content.
  • Reach: The number of potential viewers a piece of content has from your followers and its shares.
  • Placements: Advertorial, sponsored or editorial content published on third party sites.

 
The number of impressions is particularly useful when you combine it with your engagement metrics. This is because a high number of impressions with low engagement, means that even though many people saw your content, it was not interesting enough to interact with.

Media impressions and placements alone cannot determine PR success. Viewership, engagement and organic search results, etc., all add to the value of PR. Reach is great to get a larger audience’s interest in you, but that doesn’t mean all 1 million site visitors will read your article or be part of your ideal customer criteria.

SUMMARY

Wide reach is great for awareness, but PR requires more targeted reach to acquire customers. Impressions, reach and placements are not always accurate in their performance reflections. Therefore, they should be accompanied by more specific measurements.

How to measure media reach

It is best to measure media reach along with more specific criteria sets, such as follower growth or increased organic search results. Your PR campaign can be widely spread, but make sure that it delivers solid results in terms of your campaign goals. Not only to get placements.

You can track referral traffic, meaning the traffic that arrives at your website through a link on another domain. This will show the success of your placements and if they are beneficial to accomplish your PR goals. Referral traffic is more accurate than impressions and reach results, as it is an indicator of platform relevance and content quality.

SUMMARY

It is best to measure media reach along with more specific criteria sets, such as follower growth or increased organic search results. Reach can be calculated via a platform’s built-in metrics, Google Analytics and Google Ads for paid advertising.

4

Checklist

As technology advances, measurement metrics become more accurate and reliable. This counts in the favour of your PR strategy, goals and objectives can be highly specified and broken down into sub-sections, with a measurement set for each.

You don’t always have to measure everything. Depending on the goals of your PR campaign, your metrics will be compiled based on the most beneficial areas of measurement. Here’s a quick list of the metrics you can get started with:

New visitors
Returning visitors
Mobile visitors
Mentions
Backlinks
Engagement
Referrals
Referrals

These metrics should provide you with some useful tools for both planning and measuring the success of your PR strategies. Pro tip, always build your metrics system like a puzzle, with a specified goal for each element being measured. When all your pieces fit together, they make a unified set that works.

SUMMARY

You don’t have to measure everything, just make sure that what you’re measuring makes sense in terms of your PR campaign’s end goals.

5

Conclusion

Hopefully this article helped you to get a better understanding of why PR metrics are important and how to measure them.

Every execution in your PR strategy should have a measurable goal, otherwise you miss growth potential coming from your investments in public relations management. Remember, PR is not trying to extend awareness, PR is building brand authority that leads to revenue. Measuring the results from your PR campaign is easily done with the free software we mentioned, although for extensive data you’ll need to invest in some analytical software. Dedicate some time to unlocking the full potential of these metrics.

If you need help with a PR campaign or strategy with proven results, you can contact us at PRLab today.

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