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Rethinking Measurement and PR Metrics Across Comms Functions

Apr 4, 2023 Tiffany Darmetko

Measurement is a critical component of any strategic communications program. Compiling metrics is far from an arbitrary task – these numbers can inform your entire storytelling strategy and help you make adjustments and set goals for the future. I sat down with Inkhouse Executive Vice President of Client Services Tiffany Darmetko to discuss the many ways we can analyze the impact of our storytelling and use data to guide our communications efforts.

What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of traditional PR metrics and their strengths and weaknesses? 

Tiffany: There are many traditional PR metrics out there: media coverage numbers, impressions, share of voice (SOV)… the list goes on. The key is understanding where each of these metrics has its limitations and not setting stock in any one of them in isolation. 

Impressions, for instance, need to be taken with a grain of salt since only a portion of any given publication’s readers are actually going to lay eyes on your media hit. Media coverage is helpful to build credibility, but will not generate enough awareness on its own. This is one reason why we integrate earned PR with digital content programs: to amplify the heck out of marquee coverage!  

SOV is similarly limiting. When we’re talking about measuring competitive SOV in the market, there are so many variables that can disrupt your piece of the SOV pie (despite your best laid plans). Plus, the percentages do not distinguish by sentiment unless you’re deliberate about doing so. A company that recently experienced a crisis might have a larger SOV than you, but in this case, it’s not a victory!

I recommend refining metrics to make them more meaningful. For example, instead of looking at overall SOV compared to competitors, you could narrow down a few specific conversations that you most want to be a part of or go head-to-head with competitors on. Analyze your share of conversation (SOC), aiming to increase this targeted SOC over time. 

Is there a better way to show the ROI of PR efforts that helps us see the bigger picture? 

Tiffany: Yes, when you experience “the halo effect” it all makes sense! Today, magic happens when elements of PR and digital content marketing campaigns all influence each other to create this halo effect where they have a much better shot at breaking through to key audiences.   

To better understand this, let’s take the core PR program element of media relations. Certainly media coverage has its merits, but it’s even more powerful when combined with efforts on other channels like email marketing and social media. Media coverage, for example, can fuel top-performing email campaigns with high open and click-through rates, and when promoted on LinkedIn can bring new (and return) visitors to your website. 

To take things one step further, when content like press releases and blog posts are optimized for SEO, PR then plays an important role in boosting organic search rankings and driving website traffic. We’re all for this integrated formula where everything enhances and feeds into each other – maximizing outcomes across the board. 

Where do you see PR metrics headed in the future? 

Tiffany: Just because the industry has measured success and impact in certain ways for a long time, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t re-evaluate and find new solutions. Instead of taking individual PR metrics at face value, we’re merging success metrics from different channels (PR, web, social, email, etc.) to illustrate how these efforts work together to drive business impact. 

Reporting on campaigns will continue to look more like this Inkhouse client example:

A 2022 awareness campaign for our client, ACME, was directly responsible for: 

☑️ PR byline in a strategic media outlet targeting developers

☑️ 45% of web sessions from March 18 – April 15, 2022

☑️ 53% of new users during the promotion period

☑️ 10% of goal completions (valued at more than $7,000)

Reporting on the data is only half of it. How can you contextualize metrics to tell a broader story? 

Tiffany: You’re exactly right. The point of visualizing performance metrics is to show how the things you did moved the needle, not to summarize a list of activities or throw out a bunch of data points that don’t tell a story. Data should be used to connect the dots between an initiative and how it supported a key business goal. 

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