The biggest problem for PR people right now (always) and how to overcome it.
- CEO has no idea how PR really works but is directing you and calling the shots on your success.
- His/her version of success is not what actual PR success is.
We want your PR efforts valued and appreciated with the consideration it deserves so within this blog is an overview of how to measure PR in a way that will help you report back on your impact in a way that is sustainable and meaningful.
Look, we know that getting the big cheese to sign-up for something he/she can’t physically see or measure and that travels slowly and infinitely is a tough gig to start. And we know that once the client does sign-up; often their version of PR success and impact is in conflict with PR reality.
But we’re here to help. Because it’s important that there is a global PR-perception culture shift.
Yes dears, I’m here to help you get IRL PR thinking up there in the boardroom the right way. And arm you with the language you need to make sure that ol’mate in the bag of fruit, is measuring PR success just as it should be.
That’s right folks; we don’t want you to be backed into reporting on antiquated or vanity metrics that do nothing except over-inflate ego. We want your PR success measured for the powerful impact you’re making to the business or businesses you represent and have your efforts valued and appreciated with the consideration it deserves.
Before we dive into giving you the language and/or reassurance that you need to hop, step and jump forward into continued PR-life-peace; make sure that your client knows what PR is first.
My definition of PR is this:
“PR is the art of getting what you need into the hearts and minds of people who need it most.”
PR is often confused by the person measuring your results and setting you up to fail – aka PR is not publicity. Publicity is one outcome of one possible PR tactic. Somewhere along the PR life journey it became a default term for ‘publicity’. While publicity is important, powerful and a crown in the jewel; it’s it’s misinformed to sell PR short to being a one-trick pony. And sometimes publicity just isn’t the most important tactic to advancing a business.
Pubic Relations can be any tactic it takes to a) communicate unique value to b) the people who need to know most; in the right way at the right time to c) bring about change for a business so that it can become an enduring business and brand.
What PR people do is elicit change through communication.
This means that the PR strategy in order to reach the ideal business outcomes; might not require publicity in the traditional sense at all. Depending on the outcome of the business-at large, a thoughtful PR strategy might include one or more of a myriad of potential tactics (see post here on a list of PR tactics). There are no limits! That’s what makes the PR profession the adaptable, dynamic, forever-changing career that it is. Ah-hem, never a dull moment!
While publicity is still incredibly powerful and an important part of the marketing mix; long gone are the days where PR is ‘just’ publicity. In fact; it was never only publicity. It has always been a function that pivots from tactic to tactic in order to advance businesses in the direction it needs to go. For example some of the ideal outcomes might be; (not limited to)
- To collaborate more effectively
- To improve company culture
- To accelerate and amplify growth
- To discover untapped market space
- To advance its position in the market
- To establish industry recognition
- To build personal brand for individuals within the team
- To establish an industry talking head for the business
- To improve consumer connection and trial
- To provide clarity on the language around the brand
- To improve meaningful consumer awareness
- To diffuse a crisis or issue
And publicity might not be the approach decided upon to achieve any of these potential, ideal outcomes.
So once it’s established that PR is not publicity; and that PR is what builds brand awareness in the right way, with the right assets at the right time; then you can start to talk about how to (and HOW NOT TO) measure PR success.
How NOT to measure PR succes
01: Increase in followers, likes or engagement on social media
With most career influencers and businesses having bought followers at some point in their social media journey, it’s irrelevant to report on followers or an increase in followers. Even if the followers are 100% legit; they exist in a fake world.
Followers, likes and engagement can all be bought, therefore the figures have no value; it’s not an even or transparent playing field.
Of course we recommend being mindful of them in context as a whole; however we never report on them as a measurement of value or success.
Social media is an infinite game (until the next thing comes along); and the only thing that’s real is the actual content itself (minus the filters and curated worlds of course) – not the numbers.
PR Pros are often backed into reporting on social media figures to provide something tangible to appease the CEO’s impression of return. We hope however you can stand strong and safe in the knowing that this is not the way to measure your impact or value towards a business.
Social media is a long game; and like anything worthwhile; rewards takes time. It’s not a bank where you can cash in on cheques the minute they’re invested. It’s a necessary part of a business’s communication and consumer strategy. And it’s a race to the bottom without one done well. But to report on likes, follows and engagement; is kinda like counting Monopoly money.
Instead Report On:
- The delivery on high-quality content and advancing the standard of execution
- The delivery of content timely and within budget as promised
- Alleviating resources by managing social media for them
- The frequency of posts agreed to and delivered
- Advancing meaningful DM interactions and enquiries
- Increasing content shares and tags
02: Influencer circulation figure aggregates
We find it quite sad when we see PR agencies reporting on influencer circulation aggregates i.e. “We’re so pleased that the campaign reached an Instagram audience of over 2.5 million.”
Surely they’re digital savvy enough to know that the figures are faked and it’s just a matter of being bullied into reporting on something tangible by a client; even if it’s not really.
And as well as that while the followers might aggregate to that number (real or not); not everyone is exposed to the content piece given the average visibility figure for any audience at best is around 20% and industry standard is usually less than 5%.
Once again; they’re fake metrics with no value to meaningful PR outcomes.
Instead Report On:
- Creating key messaging clarity for the business
- Securing professional, well-positioned, on-brand assets to facilitate influencer or ambassador outreach
- The number of well-placed, well-positioned, personalised conversations you’ve facilitated with influencers that have come into contact with the brand via your strategic, thoughtful and streamlined efforts
03: Number of media clippings
Quality over quantity is the way to go always. And if the CEO wants quantity; then they should definitely purchase some ads. We can’t vouch for the effectiveness of ‘said’ ads but if it’s all about appearances and a controlled media placement; then advertising is the best adventure for ‘fixed media-land mindsets.’
Instead Report On:
- Well-placed coverage as opposed to the number of clippings. Track things
- We also recommend going one-step further and not reporting on coverage as a measure of success at all but rather report on the number of meaningful media conversations that have taken place as a result of your efforts
- Also report on the impact you’ve had to the media kit and media asset approach (i.e. perhaps your were influential in helping the business to secure beautiful imagery they didn’t have before).
04: Increase in sales revenue
Often the value of a PR campaign is determined by the ability to impact sales during the campaign tenure. This approach couldn’t be more floored. PR is not a sales function. It’s a communications function. Which over time, a long time will influence sales and ensue that the business becomes a brand. There is no brand without awareness, there is no awareness without PR.
Also the purchase cycle from the moment a consumer becomes aware of a product, place, or thing in a positive way can be years down the track. Equally the amount of friends they share that knowledge with; is also untraceable and often outside of a PR campaign.
Instead Report On:
- Report on the work pre-agreed that you’ve done to budget, at a high quality and on deadline
- If there’s budget to execute on customer and market research satisfaction; explore whether or not your community is satisfied, delighted and/or empowered. When customers are empowered they become roving ambassadors for your brand. This is the ultimate PR win. If you can get a gauge on where your community sits before PR support and after or as your PR support progresses then that is an ideal approach although often very expensive.
05: Influencer product placements/or mentions
Oh dear, the horror! Seriously, we don’t blame the PR agencies for trying to provide some form of comfort and tangibility to the CEO who doesn’t understand PR as well as generate publicity for their agency for being ‘connected’ at the same time; but this sort of reporting needs to go in the bin.
This type of reporting is essentially applauding the ability to manage a budget and secure paid placements via sponsored posts. Of course if they were all organic then there might be a badge of honour to wear here but it’s not. The value is not in the number of influencers the business had the budget to pay for and convince.
And digital consumers are far too savvy to know when something is a sponsored post or not; plus it should be declared.
Instead Report On:
- Your ability to identify, reach out to and secure content that is well-positioned from a target audience point of view, on-brand, on-message and re-sharable. The value here is in low-cost campaign imagery. Never before has professional imagery been so affordable for big business to secure. Influencers and PR Pros play an important role in making this possible. That is the value. Not the ‘fake’ audience figures or the ‘number’ of influencers who were paid to post about it.
06: Web traffic during the PR campaign
A bit like PR not being a sales function, PR tactics can influence web traffic but not always and there are many other factors out of PR control that impact web traffic. Also further to point number four, plenty of PR magic can happen outside of the PR tenure and over the lifetime of a business. PR is an infinite game and PR efforts impact a business positively across its lifetime well after the campaign period. Think of PR like planting seeds that grow.
Of course it’s good to be mindful of web traffic, or contact form enquiries when content PR has generated is in-market; but awareness in context is about all that matters. Often the true value of PR is not known; until it is taken away.
Instead Report On:
- Improved key messaging or professional copywriting that has been submitted and can be re-purposed if relevant
- Blogs that have been provided and published if relevant
- Any of the above suggested items that are relevant to your project
07: Ad Value Equivalents
Ad Value Equivalents or AVEs were in dinosaur land back in the 90s. But still PR Pros feel pressured to provide to validate the investment worth.
Ad Value Equivalents complete nonsense and with no industry standard they’re subjective and inflated from agency to agency.
Also you can’t put a price on changing someone’s opinion via a powerful opinion piece article media endorsement. It’s not possible to legitimately compare the value and impact of editorial versus an ad; it’s apples and oranges and should be kept in the cupboard.
Instead Report On:
- The list of activities you complete in line with the agreement
- And any of the suggested items above.
PR success is subjective and its true value is immeasurable because the result of PR is a strengthened reputation, which amplifies brand. PR results are the sum of all impressions in the hearts and minds of the target audience; about a particular brand. While attempts are made, you can’t measure that. PR is not a dollar in dollar out equation. It’s a deliberate and purposeful implementation of a plan that improves goodwill and good word-of-mouth to bring about good business over time, always and forever.
- Make sure the CEO knows what PR is to begin with.
- Clearly define what PR success looks like at the agreement stage and adjust expectations accordingly (or walk away!).
- Define PR value and impact in these suggested ways.
Words by Jade Roberts
raraPR Founder and Creative Director
raraPR is above all the sum of people who together help build brands and share stories. We are present in our determination to make a positive difference to the world by representing individuals and businesses that are doing good. We are an extension of the personal stories within us, those that we exist for and those within you that need to be heard.