The entire PR industry has struggled for years to reach a standard, meaningful way to measure results. Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE), long used as a common success metric, has been rejected as inaccurate and misleading. Modern CEOs are no longer willing to invest in PR programs that are tied to subjective results, such as “awareness.” Today’s leaders want more specific evidence that PR investments are resulting in provable value to the organization. Let’s look at three ways to calculate the impact of PR.
If you are measuring and reporting on PR today, it is likely that most of your efforts are focused on outputs. Outputs are the sum of what the PR team has produced and how they did it. The number of press releases, pitches, speaking sessions and earned media mentions are all output measurements. Measuring outputs is important and can lead to revealing trend information, but alone, these measures speak to only activity, not results.
The next level of measurement involves outtakes. Outtakes are about who was reached, rather than what was produced. To understand outtakes you must understand things like readership, site visits, asset downloads, event attendance. Outtake measurements help you quantify the potential impact of your outputs and the quality of mentions, but do not guarantee any change in behavior or positive return.
Outcome measurements reveal the actual results of your public relations efforts. What you measure should be aligned to your goals for PR. Are you trying to generate more leads, shorten sales cycles, increase revenue, or incite some other behavior like sharing content, writing positive reviews, or attending an event? Your goals will tell you exactly what outcomes to measure and set the benchmarks against which success will be judged.
The change in PR results reporting is not isolated to a few brands or agencies. There has been a shift across the industry toward a more calculated, outcome-based method of judging results. This is necessary to enhance the reputation of the practice of PR and to align with modern, data-driven decision making. Fortunately, technology is available to support the effort to qualify PR work and communicate success.