PR Finally Has a Seat at the Table—Thanks to Better Measurement

According to MuckRack’s State of PR Measurement 2023 Report, 62 percent of PR professionals say that tying PR activities to key business initiatives helps increase the value of PR among key stakeholders. Yet this has been a challenge in recent years as PR pros try to figure out how to do this. That showcases the important role that measurement plays in overcoming the decades-long battle that the public relations discipline has fought to be seen as a measurable contributor to a company’s bottom line.

Powerful campaigns from Ford, Penguin Random House, Jack in the Box and H&R Block have proven PR’s efficacy in driving reputation, influence, adoption and loyalty, thus earning a seat at the table where lower-funnel marketing objectives typically rule the conversation. With this new presence, measuring the success of PR has become increasingly critical in proving its value. Fortunately, an increased availability of smarter tools helps showcase PR’s role as a critical driver of brand relevance and engagement.

Here’s how PR pros can best measure campaigns to accurately reflect their work's value and how it contributes to business growth.

Workshop, Rinse and Repeat

Data is key in PR. It informs strategies, powers tactics and measures efforts to optimize programs to best reach target audiences.

At the start of a new program, in-house PR teams and their agency partners must determine the KPIs defining campaign success. At Red Thread PR, we host a KPI Workshop where both teams come together to discuss what business success looks like. It sets the foundation for measurement; we establish the KPIs to assess our program, the rationale for each KPI, the mechanism to track them and who owns that tracking.

It’s also important to understand the value a brand places on certain KPIs. We know some matter more than others, but why? Having conversations such as this can lead to collective education around what metrics will be most meaningful to meet business goals. For example, if the C-suite is putting value on antiquated metrics like ad value equivalency (we’ve all been there!), the agency partner has an opportunity to educate leadership on other metrics that can better capture true PR impact and value.

Invest in Tech

Once you’ve established KPIs for PR success, it’s essential to have the right tools in place to measure them. But this isn’t always easy. If PR is the long game for influencing consumers’ hearts, minds and wallets, then why do so many measurement tools track consumers’ direct actions, overlooking long-term indirect actions that leave major value unaccounted for?

As PR strategies connect with consumers on and offline across the full PESO model (paid, earned, owned and shared media), our tools must do the same. In the case of earned media (a historically difficult tactic to measure the direct success of), our tech must quantify how consumers take action, even if it happens many weeks later. This way, PR can prove its role in consumers’ decision journey.

While communication metrics like impressions, volume of earned media coverage and messaging pull-through have merit, the real value lies elsewhere. This hurdle can be overcome by utilizing newly-emerged measurement tools to track a consumer’s entire journey—from viewing an earned media placement one day to completing a sale several weeks or months later.

Our agency saw this in action with one client in the home and garden space, where we identified and partnered with Onclusive to show how our PR efforts impact the company’s bottom line. Onclusive’s tool tracks consumers’ online footprint to show how an earned media placement for our client turned into a sale via metrics like potential customers, amplification and website traffic. We can now quantify our earned media results into potential customers—a metric that has shifted PR’s presence within the brand’s media mix model.

Master the Media Mix Model

Once the KPIs are established and the right tools are put in place, PR now has the opportunity to sit at the same table that other media channels have been at for years. Historically, PR’s awareness-focused metrics did not contribute to this conversation. But with data to demonstrate PR’s role in business impact, the seat is there for us to take.

With this in mind, PR needs to claim its place in conversations around overall marketing success. We deserve to sit alongside our marketing counterparts, and we have the data to prove it. With that data in hand, we can have meaningful discussions around PR's role in consideration and lead generation and even secure a more significant piece of the marketing budget.

While PR work has been shown to achieve top-of-the-funnel awareness, that isn’t necessarily reflected in bottom-of-the-funnel sales and, ultimately, profit—until now. PR professionals can make the case through a more comprehensive measurement approach and in doing so, demonstrate PR’s role on a brand’s bottom line to ensure our seat at the table remains secure.

Laura Emanuel is Managing Director of Red Thread PR.