Public relations has long been viewed as the mysterious side of marketing spend. It’s unpredictable, it’s opaque, and it lacks the solid analytics that underscore sales and marketing efforts – or at least that’s what people think. The truth is you can track the performance of your agency or in-house team to a surprisingly precise degree. That includes assessing outcomes, detecting missed opportunities, identifying areas for improvement, and ensuring the team is using their budget wisely.
The methodology behind evaluating PR teams really isn’t all that mysterious with the right tools and the right practices. Let’s take a look at which aspects of PR you can and should track, how to assess those numbers, and when it’s time to look for a new team.
1. Align Your Measurements With Your Goals
Intelligent evaluation starts with understanding the PR team’s purpose. Do you want them to:
- Promote a specific service?
- Elevate a CEO’s profile as a thought leader?
- Boost media coverage or market share over a certain competitor?
You won’t use the same measurements for every objective, so make sure everyone’s on the same page in terms of strategy and align your metrics to those goals. That includes on defining a “win” in advance so that everyone agrees on evaluating results.
2. Measure Performance As Well As Outcomes
How fast and efficient is your team? Results can look deceptively great until you measure that return against the time and effort it took to get them.
Track your team’s time and see how effective they are at maximizing their budget. That will suggest if you could be seeing higher ROI with a stronger team.
3. Use Benchmarks
Let’s say your team places a byline article. You’ll want to measure lead generation and social engagement, obviously, but you’ll also want to place those results in context. That means you’ll also need data on the performance of similar articles, average lead generation and social statistics and industry standards.
If your team is about to launch a massive, high-resource campaign, benchmarks from past similar campaigns will help you predict whether the campaign return will be worth those resources.
4. Look Past The ‘What’ And Into The ‘Why’
Too many teams record results and move onto the next campaign. But smart PR is about digging into the why of the result.
Maybe one press release launched an avalanche of media attention and another got crickets. Why did the second one fall flat? Why was the first one so effective? Those insights are critical for shaping future strategies.
Don’t forget to share that new knowledge across the company; other teams like sales or branding might benefit.
5. Measure The Quality Of Your Wins
Look beyond the number of mentions the team creates and look at what’s being said.
What’s the tone of the mention? Who said it? Are they influential? Did the reporter understand the brand story?
Something that’s absolutely crucial to understand: AVEs (ad value equivalency) are of limited use in this area. They might be able to measure the cost of an ad substitute but they can’t predict the quality of coverage or any resulting leads.
6. Size Up Their PR Expertise
A sharp PR team brings many qualities to the table and not all of them can be measured empirically. Dig into the team members’ strengths and see what they have to offer.
Do they have a gift for storytelling? What kind of relationships do they have with influencers and local personalities? Is their industry knowledge superficial or deep?
7. Evaluate PR Results Through Other Teams And Tools
No doubt you’ve got CRM systems, content management solutions and marketing automation tools at your fingertips. Use them to track the success of PR initiatives to their role on the bottom line.
Maybe the social media team saw an article shared across multiple platforms. Maybe the sales reps can connect a media mention to a specific number of conversions.
With a little effort, you can even determine the revenue driven by one campaign. Measurement tools can also help direct strategies, such as web analytics that reveal a certain topic just isn’t engaging enough customers.
8. Make Sure You Speak The PR Language
Before you take your PR metrics to your C-suite leaders, make sure you translate PR speak into terms they understand. Someone who’s never been immersed in public relations can get lost in terms like hits and analyst relations and sentiment. Make sure you can translate results in a way that connects to overarching business objectives.
On that note, be sure the PR team’s reports are framed in a way that tells both you and your leadership how they’re driving goals and revenue forward.
Decide When It’s Time To Let Go
Sometimes you’ll decide your PR team just isn’t delivering the kind of impact your company needs. When you’re making this kind of tough decision, be sure to look beyond metrics.
Think about whether the team understands the brand strategy at the heart of their work. Consider whether they kept their promises to you and were proactive in carrying out the business objectives.
A PR team that’s clearly committed to your success may just need better communication and a few process changes. But if both the results and the relationship need work, it’s probably time to move on.
The days of PR’s “mystery” are over. Business and marketing leaders have the software and the tactics they need to accurately evaluate their public relations teams and map out the interconnected role those teams play in the organization’s success. By looking at your team, you’ll better understand their results, as well as the possibilities for your future relationship.
How do you tell whether your brand’s PR strategy is working?