7 metrics PR pros should track to gain respect

PR pros, it’s time to claim your seat at the leadership table. Here’s how to do it.

In November, the CEO of Muck Rack wrote an article for “Fortune about why PR gets no respect.

Of course, that’s not a new conversation. We talk about it a lot. We talk about how measuring our efforts to real business goals will get us a seat at the leadership table. We also talk about how our jobs are quickly becoming those of hybrid PR professionals.

But he had a couple of insights I thought were interesting.

He said the industry gets no respect because you can’t track or scale PR, PR pros have a terrible reputation problem with journalists, and there is no use putting lipstick on a pig.

Does that sound about right to you?

In Canada there is an industry-wide initiative to get rid of media impressions and advertising value equivalencies (AVEs). It has been so successful, clients no longer ask PR professionals to submit results based on those two things.

But that’s still how the way the industry measures its efforts in the U.S. In fact, when we judge award entries for professional organizations, the results sections lack real business results and focus instead on the number of Facebook fans, media interviews, and media impressions.

It hurts my analytical brain and communications heart.

We can either win the big awards, not have a seat at the table, and keep things status quo, or we can shake things up and learn how to track the real things that sustain a business. Things such as increased revenues, shortened sales cycles, and improved margins.

Where is the opportunity?

But here’s the thing: I’m not so numbers driven I don’t recognize the need for the more, shall we say, “light” metrics. It is very difficult to measure brand awareness and the effectiveness of traditional PR.

We have to find ways to measure our efforts in ways that are meaningful to the executives who pay us.

I’ve broken down the types of things you can measure into two categories: “light” (brand awareness) and “data-driven” (business objectives). The list is long—my apologies. Hopefully you can just cherry pick what makes the most sense for you.

Light metrics

1. Media relations: From my perspective, media relations includes blogger and influencer relations. Because of the Web, we no longer have to count on circulation multiplied by two and a half (if it’s a consumer publication) or five (if it’s a trade outlet). Now we can track how many times an article, blog post, or piece of content was shared. We can figure out how many people saw, shared and read it.

Get to know Google analytics (it’s non-negotiable), and use Squeeze to track your traffic, views and social shares. Report the value of each campaign to your executives.

2. Customer relations: I won’t call this customer service because I don’t want those professionals to think we’re encroaching on their territory. Rather, we have a huge opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with our customers via the Web.

Social media provides the opportunity to connect, engage and chat. In this case, it makes sense to track fans, friends, connections, followers, and viewers-when you combine them with the data-driven metrics.

3. Scalability: One of the things the Muck Rack CEO mentioned as a problem for the industry is that PR can’t scale. That was true in the old days, but today PR pros are tasked with promoted posts, promoted tweets, and Amplify. In the past, because we would have considered these things paid media, they would have lived under the advertising roof. I’m willing to bet more and more of you spend time with these tools. Facebook, Twitter, and Outbrain all give you analytics to support your buys.

Data-driven metrics

1. Increased revenue: If you don’t work for a public company, having access to the revenue goals may prove a little difficult. But if your organization is run like mine, the revenue goals are very visible.

Figure out how you can affect growth. If you have ecommerce, your campaigns will drive people to landing pages where they can buy. If you don’t sell online, you will measure your content, email, social media, media relations, and other efforts through the leads you create, how you nurture them, and how you help sales convert them.

We have one client who gave us access to its customer relationship management (CRM), so we know exactly where each leads comes from and whether or not the leads convert. Get access to the things you need to track your efforts and pay attention to how much money you drive for the business.

2. Shortened sales cycle: If you’re in a consumer business, this is less important to you. But in a B2B organization, a sales cycle could be anywhere from two days to two years. Work with your sales team to figure out how long the average sale takes, and set a goal to beat it. Let’s say it takes 10 months. Set your goal to nine months.

What’s the best way to shorten a sales cycle? Stay top-of-mind. What’s the best way to stay top-of-mind? Share valuable and interesting content where your prospects hang out (email, social media, stadiums, subways, websites, etc.).

The better your content, the more likely your prospects will read it. The more likely they are to read it (or view or listen to it), the more likely they are to buy from you. PR pros have ultimate control of this.

3. Improved margins: We had a client a few years ago who incentivized us based on how much we helped his margins increase. Just as we were about to get our bonus for improving margins by two percent he decided to buy a Ferrari, which killed the margins and we got no bonus.

If you don’t work for a public organization, I recommend you stay away from this one. If you do, the easiest way to determine your effect on margins is to track how much revenue you produced, subtract your budget, salary and benefits (if you work for a PR firm, subtract your budget), and the number you end up with is the real revenue you’ll use for reporting.

Then have your finance team help you figure out the margins from there. If you increased revenue by more than what you spent, you can pretty much guarantee you improved margins, too.

4. Big data: For those of you who have been in the industry as long as me, you’ll remember having to sit through focus groups night after night, watching people on the other side of one-sided glass talk about your products or services. I was always happy when the advertising team said we didn’t need to attend.

We no longer have to give up our weeknights (and eat pizza four nights in a row) to get information about what our customers think. If you have strong command of all of the data at your fingertips, you will be able to influence high-level decisions on product, market positioning, and more. If you don’t know how to sift through the data, take some online courses through Coursera or Big Data University.

It’s your turn. What else can the PR industry do to gain the respect it deserves?

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally ran on Spin Sucks.

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