5 key metrics to assess your earned media success

Some of these gauges, such as formulating article quality scores, require a bit of hard work, but at least you’ll garner viable data so your subsequent work will show significant ROI.

PR pros struggle to measure results and quantify their contribution to business objectives.

Measurement experts dismiss advertising value equivalency (AVE), which compares the value of earned media to advertising of similar size and placement, as an invalid metric. They also call earned media value—often calculated by multiplying the reach of earned or social media content by a multiplier based on impressions—a meaningless metric.

The days of evaluating public relations campaigns by counting clips and measuring column inches are long gone. PR now has new tools at its disposal that help analyze its earned media accomplishments with these metrics.

Website referrals. Website analytics offer the most basic PR measurement tool. Information on referral traffic under the Google Analytics acquisition tab can reveal website traffic from media placements—sometimes. Some online publications might not include a link to your site when mentioning your organization. Some readers might head directly to your website through a search engine.

Still, many PR measurement pros will credit a key media placement for an ensuing spike in website traffic—even if the news outlet did not link to their website. Web analytics can also indicate whether traffic from earned media referrals converts.

Although Google Analytics provides information about your organization’s own website, it offers limited worth as a measurement tool for public relations. Typically, the principal goal of PR is not to increase website traffic; its main goals are to build brand awareness, increase trust and attract the right kind of traffic.

Mentions. Google Alerts is unreliable and doesn’t include television, radio and social media monitoring. A subscription media monitoring tool accurately reports which media outlets and social media users mention your brand and products.

Paid subscription services also aggregate all media data into a central online dashboard, identify trends and help streamline your media outreach, says Robyn Rudish-Laning, vice president of communications for the South Carolina PRSA Chapter.

“Setting a handful of searches and alerts is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s being discussed,” Rudish-Laning says.

In addition to tracking your organization’s name and its brand names, PR measurement experts recommend tracking names of your organization’s top public-facing executives, competitors, company nicknames, and common misspellings of names, as well as industry keywords.

Large companies might also employ sentiment analysis to grade mentions as positive, negative or neutral. Sentiment analysis by humans is more accurate than automated analysis through software.

Finding brand mentions enables PR to amplify positive media mentions through other owned media, social media and other channels. Finding brand mentions, also called implicit links, also helps organizations to bolster their SEO.

If the websites that mention your brand have strong domain authority, contact the site webmasters, thank them for mentioning your brand, and ask them to link to your site. That will convert implicit links into explicit links and improve your SEO.

Message resonance. Message resonance reports if your most desirable key messages are included in media coverage. Select one or two succinct key messages, and then identify through media measurement how many articles include those key messages.

“This metric is especially helpful in determining whether or not the media understood the key points of a launch, a new company direction or corporate strategy,” says Jennifer Usher, an account director at Shift Communications.

Software is not yet reliable enough to identify a company’s key messages. Well-trained human analysts can easily identify and grade key messages for any company or brand.

Share of voice. Share of voice (SOV) compares your media mentions to those of competitors. If there were 100 mentions of you and your competitors online and your business appeared in 35 of those, then your share of voice would be 35 percent.

That basic computation doesn’t reveal publications’ readership information or whether mentions were positive or negative, says Brendon Stellman, vice president and director of client relations for Milldam Public Relations.

“Ultimately, the share of voice tool you choose to help your marketing and PR efforts needs to take these types of nuances into account to provide lasting value,” Stellman writes. “Assuming you don’t work in a niche industry, figuring out your SOV is too complex to do alone. There are a variety of solutions that can be tailored to your line of work that will monitor and record the media mentions of your company and your competitors.”

Some advanced solutions can compute share of voice based on the circulation/readership of publications and can create chart or pie graphs to illustrate your share of voice.

Digging deeper into the data can reveal what types of announcements or activities gain media coverage. It can uncover new media outlets to contact and competitors’ successful strategies to emulate and tell you whether journalists and bloggers in your sector mention your company.

Article quality scores. Clients often wish to count the number of clips. They believe that more mentions over time will indicate progress—but that approach doesn’t measure quality. Mentions could be mainly in small, low-quality publications that don’t serve the client’s desired audience. Article content could be neutral or negative.

Usher suggests a solution: Assign a ranking system to rate the quality of each publication and article.

For instance, depending on the client and its audience, you could assign five points for a feature in a business outlet, four points for a feature in a top trade publication, and three points for an executive quote, and other factors. Then, work toward a number goal, either annually or quarterly. More important, assign quality scores based on article content with the highest scores reserved for articles that deliver key corporate messages.

This approach enables you to create your own dashboard for media coverage based on factors that are most important to your organization.

PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, advocates creating what she calls a kick-butt index to specify what the organization considers PR success. The index uses a weighted quality score based on factors such as the message, mentions, third-party endorsements, headline and desirable visuals.

Creating such an index calls for in-depth discussions with top executives and company stakeholders to determine their priorities as well as extensive audience research. The result is a single number that defines PR’s contribution to the organization, Paine says.

A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.

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