PR & thought leadership

PR measurement: it’s not just about the hits

Carolyn McMaster | March 6, 2018

By Charisse Kenion, Unsplash

A main measurement of media relations effectiveness is the number of placements, or media hits, and the reach of those placements. The bigger the numbers, the better the success, right?

Wrong, at least most of the time.

Simply knowing that your company’s news, comments or bylined articles appeared in, say, 15 publications and with a total reach of 4 million unique views per month (UVM) doesn’t say much, even if it makes you feel good. Nor does growth in social media followers. (That’s why these numbers are often referred to as vanity metrics.)

Are you reaching the right people?

To be sure, you want lots of people to read about you or view your video. But are those people the ones you want to reach? And are they doing anything when they learn about you? Are your metrics providing information you can act on? Figuring out real value requires using KPIs that show progress against goals.

If you’re out to raise brand awareness, the “more is better” audience measure matters to a good degree. But appearing in smaller trade outlets whose audiences comprise your customer base may be much better than appearing in a larger consumer publication. If lead generation is a goal, you will want to see if media placements result in visits to your website or mailing list signups. (In an analogous situation, we measured an increase in quality and quantity of award applicants when promoting the SeaWeb Seafood Champions awards program in 2017.) Anecdotal information is useful as well. For example, are prospects hearing about you from media mentions?

The valuable measure is engagement: how much people share and comment on your content. What content gets shared the most? The least? Which outlets generate the most activity? That knowledge also gives you data for adjusting strategies.

Are your measures meaningful?

When you do collect vanity metrics (we all do—sometimes they’re all we have), be careful how and what you count. We count only quality placements, such as articles with a substantive mention of the client or our press release positioned as an article. We don’t count automatic pickups by news services or aggregator sites because those counts have little value.

They can also create a false picture. For example, one client using a major media monitoring service sent us a report showing five times the placements we counted using Muck Rack (an excellent service). Our report had 71 substantive articles in publications we wanted to be in, with a collective 6.5 million UVM. Theirs had 356 placements, but around 280 were junk, such as unrelated articles and automatic press release pickups in huge news sites outside our target audience. (Just one of those sites added 54 million worthless UVM to the tally.)

In short, don’t count something just because you can. Evaluating a few important metrics directly tied to your goals—and focusing on quality, relevance and engagement—keeps media relations efforts focused and gives you a true picture of success.

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