Demonstrating PR Impact Through Earned Media Metrics

As the industry grapples with identifying and communicating the most effective metrics for demonstrating PR’s impact—which is increasingly tied to driving business outcomes—PR measurement remains in a state of flux. PRNEWS spoke with Carolina Calkins, Principal at Intelligent Relations, to discuss earned media metrics and the influence of AI on measurement.

PRNEWS: Your agency’s specialty is earned media. What metrics do you use to measure PR impact for clients?

Carolina Calkins, Principal at Intelligent Relations: It’s not a secret that measuring earned media is really hard—and that has not changed, even with the disruption of technology. So when a prospect comes to me wanting just leads, or conversion and traffic to the website—and has to have immediate results—I always suggest paid content, SEO strategies and marketing-related strategies—because that's not what we can deliver to your expectations. PR is more about visibility, reputation—and a good reputation will eventually [get] leads, conversion, all of that good stuff. It takes time. Measuring it is not comparable to putting a call-to-action on a social media post and analyzing conversion rate.

That being said, there's a couple of things that I personally find very useful, and this is how we work with our clients and to measure success in PR campaigns.

Quantity of Media Coverage

It is fair for us to set a goal in terms of the amount of publications that we want to be featured in on a given period of time. But, there's a “but” here: we need to break them down even more. How many are possible in niche media outlets? How many are possible in top-tier? How many are possible in podcast? That way, we can set more accurate expectations and measure the results versus that plan.

Quality of Media Coverage

With PR, it’s not about just numbers, but also the relevance and the sentiment of each piece. There’s no magic formula, but for our clients, we like to discuss the sentiment, what it does for that particular client, how relevant the mention is within the article, etc.

Reaching the Right Audience

We now have more publicly-available information—especially with AI—on readership of the outlets that we get placements in. And even if there's no data out there that is publicly available, most outlets nowadays are willing to share a media kit with you. In that regard, measuring success [through determining] if we are reaching the right target audience is very valuable.

Share of Voice

We measure share of voice by analyzing competitor coverage versus our own coverage for the brand that we're representing. It’s comparing brand media presence against competitors. This has been a longstanding metric that PR pros use, but the way we do it has shifted over time. Our own proprietary platform, Preston, has a way of seeing share of voice and measuring our results versus competitors. That’s good for clients to see in terms of visibility.

PRNEWS: How is AI integrated into PR measurement?

Carolina Calkins: There are multiple things that it can help us automate, but two are media monitoring and sentiment analysis. For share of voice, for instance, we are able to detect—based on query search and AI analysis—what the share of voice of a particular client is against its competitors. The other thing that we are measuring more accurately is the sentiment of the pieces.

And then overall, having everything in one platform allows you to integrate CRM [Customer Relationship Management] into PR. Take open rate: if a pitch was opened or not by the reporter, if the reporter responded accurately to it. We have a relationship management tool that also gives visibility to the client, so we no longer operate in a black box. The client is able to see [the status of] the relationship and the contacts we have on behalf of that client. That also helps in measuring the final outcome.

PRNEWS: Looking to the future, how do you think AI will change PR measurement?

Carolina Calkins: With the use of AI and these different technology tools, I think that eventually we'll get to a more numeric measurement of PR. Right now, it's more sentiment and qualitative. But eventually we'll be able to measure the outcome, and whether our pitches are successful or not. And that can be a metric that we can translate to our clients.

Kaylee Hultgren is Content Director for PRNEWS.