Custom Made: Measuring the Value of Public Relations

There’s always a lot of debate about public relations (PR) measurement.  While we give credit to our peers for trying to standardize and define it, codifying it is a waste of time.  It’s not realistic.  Measuring PR success is something unique to a business.  What might work for one company won’t necessarily work for another.

So what’s the golden ticket?  It all comes down to defining your bottom-line business objectives and aligning PR goals and metrics with them.  From there, the possibilities for measurement (both quantitative and qualitative) are wide open – and very much unique to a business.

  • Understand the End Goal: This is the most important rule for measurement.  If you don’t create success metrics that tie back to your high-level business objectives, you are destined for failure.  So what’s your company’s high-level business goal?  To get acquired?  Gain VC funding?  Knowing this, a focused PR program can generate the unique results needed to get there.
  • Talk to the Sales and IT Guys: Driving sales is a universal objective for most companies, and PR should be in constant contact with the sales teams.  They hold a wealth of knowledge about how PR efforts reach customers and prospects.  With IT, make sure you have regular communications with the team to track Web-site traffic and determine what outlets visitors are coming from on days that announcements or major news are released.
  • Track Thought Leadership through Third Parties: No matter your industry, obtaining thought leadership is invaluable.  While there are plenty of great metrics to achieve in terms of bylined article placements, award wins and speaking slots, there is a more accurate way to measure thought leadership:  a media or analyst audit.  Track how your company’s perception has shifted since the start of the PR program.  Do influencers consider your company to be innovative?  Is there an evangelist that is resonating with them?  Having third-party testaments to your growing prestige is a creative way of proving the value of PR.
  • Setting Metrics for Traditional and New Media: It’s important to define metrics for both traditional and online/social-media outlets.  While metrics for print media can be straightforward (number of article appearances, sentiment, article tone, advertising vs. editorial worth, etc.), think creatively about how best to measure PR impact with other outlets:
    • Chart SEO rankings
    • Measure followers on LinkedIn groups, Twitter, etc.
    • Track (shortened URL) clicks
    • Count the amount of blog responses/topics posted
  • Conducting Formal Measurement Often: Business is constantly evolving and what worked three months ago might not work today.  Ensure that you’re conducting measurement meetings every three to six months.  If the programs are not working, it gives you a deadline to try new strategies and tactics that will be more effective.

There are a million different factors for success and the only way to properly measure PR is to work collaboratively with your communications team to define and execute metrics.  Be flexible, creative and forward-thinking.  As long as your metrics tie back to your bottom-line business objectives, PR’s value can be obvious.

About Laura Grimmer

Laura Grimmer is a guest author for Journalistics. Grimmer is founder and CEO of Articulate Communications, and former senior editor of The Associated Press. New York City-based Articulate Communications helps business-to-business technology companies achieve their corporate goals through clear, message-based communications. For more information on Articulate Communications, please visit:


  1. Laura you are so right about measuring thought leadership. Unfortunately a lot of companies aren’t prepared to pay the money up front for the initial benchmark research and then to measure it again a year to 18 months down the track.

    I agree with you that third party testaments is important but I think more important is the buy in of your customers or clients – that is the true test of the efficacy of thought leadership.

  2. Great post! You offer a very sound approach to pr measurement for any organization. Custom metrics, integrated data and a continued focus on bottom-line business objectives will always lay the foundation for a successful measurement program.

    If I may offer another aspect that will help put many metrics into context, I would recommend the inclusion of a competitive set into your measurement program. Competitive positioning provides an important dimension to benchmark metrics against. For example, if 5% of coverage is negative, is this good or bad? Comparing this data against the competition will help to clarify the question. While trend data can also put metrics into context, it doesn’t necessarily make a clear distinction between industry (i.e. banking) and company trends.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. I agree with Craig. A lot of the clients are not willing to go the extra mile to establish a bench mark and then follow-up on the same later.

    I feel there is a major confusion still in the market with regards to the credibility of PR. I would really like for my clients to take PR seriously and not just utilize it as a limb of their marketing initiatives. Any thoughts on that?

    • Thanks much for the feedback. Uroos, in my experience, I have seen some commonalities for who “gets” it, and what we’ve done to help that relationship along:
      1) Marketing must have a seat at the table first. In organizations where marketing isn’t valued, PR rarely stands a chance. Having that marketing champion who is respected is a natural segue.
      2) Companies who are aggressive risk-takers. Client companies who make acquisitions or have aggressive growth goals make the financial and perhaps more important EMOTIONAL investment in PR and marketing. They know they have a problem, so they’re relying on your input and feedback about how you can help them.
      3) You/PR has proven you can do what you say. Look for those openings to add value that may be “above and beyond” what the client is expecting. Perhaps they’ve brought PR in late to the acquisition discussion — what can you do to demonstrate your value regardless of the timing? Did you contribute a kicka** Q&A that showed them how smart you are about their business environment and that made senior management better at communicating their story? Did your media coaching before, during and after an interview show the CEO or other high-level decision-maker that you are a trusted and valued partner?

      We might not be able to change ill or mis-perceptions about PR overnight, but we can change them one client at a time.

      Good luck!

  4. ” What cannot be Measured cannot be achieved,” Having said that you definetly have covered a lot of ground on different methods to evaluate the effectiveness of PR.

    One can get as creative in implementing new & innovative tools to capture data. While data is to justify expense, it could also give direction on channels which can yield results and discontinue one’s which are a waste of time & expense.

    God lies in detail….The more comprehensive the tool to measure the better & more efficient it is not only for the communications team but also for the management and external sources.

  5. Hi,
    I’ve been a cmo in 3 public companies and as many start-ups.
    Sorry to rain on the parade, but I hate it when I read an empty article.
    This really says nothing of substance.
    There are many good articles, some in the marketing journals, on how to measure both public relations roi and advertising roi and balance budgets between the two.

    Sorry, but I don’t want to see people’s time wasted with an advertisement as mine was.


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