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How to measure the success of a PR campaign

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

How to measure the success of a PR campaign

When it comes to judging the success of any business venture, take a moment to rethink your metrics. Are you measuring the things that matter, or the things that are easy to measure?

This is good exercise to carry out across all your communications activities. Let’s say you’re measuring web traffic. And because you’re measuring that, your head of marketing (or whoever is in charge of website content) thinks that their most important job is boosting web traffic.

So, they might encourage you, as the founder, to throw lots of money at ads. It’s one of the quickest ways to boost traffic -- though most of the time, we see that advertising is not well-targeted and a ton of new traffic doesn’t necessarily convert leads into sales.

Your head of marketing thinks they’re doing an awesome thing. They’re happy with the boost in traffic - but did it actually lead to business leads? Are they measuring what matters?

The same mistake is often made when it comes to measuring the success of a PR campaign.

What doesn’t count as PR results from a PR campaign

CEOs and marketing VPs may assume that a certain number or type of media hits will translate directly into sales leads. A mention in the New York Times equals a 5x boost in sales worth X amount of dollars. An op-ed in The Globe and Mail leads to 30 new subscribers for a SaaS product.

This doesn’t translate exactly (though PR can benefit sales). The underlying purpose of public relations is credibility. Establishing your name within your industry, and hopefully beyond. While an increase of your name in the media may impact these KPIs, there’s no scientific formula to calculate ‘credibility’.

The results that matter from a PR campaign: media hits, reach and Ad Value Equivalent

There’s three simple, direct ways of measuring the success of a PR campaign: your actual number of media hits, their reach and their ad value equivalent.

Media hits don’t just include traditional media like print newspapers. This extends to thought leadership articles, podcast interviews, features in blogs, and of course, TV and radio.

Calculating the reach of these media hits means looking at the news hits and calculating the number of readers from an outlet's circulation (usually publicly disclosed through media advertising packages, or available to a PR firm like ours through some pricey software).

The final way to measure the success of a PR campaign is to look at the Ad Value Equivalent, or AVE. This means listing your media hits, circulation numbers, and then determining the amount of money you would have spent on advertising to reach that same number of people.

Be mindful of the fact that once a media outlet has published an article, they’re likely to share it across multiple social media platforms too, often with thousands of followers. This can actually add to the official AVE - but can be difficult to track in full. The official AVE is effectively an estimate of the minimum value you got.

How to meaningfully measure the success of a PR campaign

At Mind Meld PR, we aim for an average of 5 results a month, which can consist of interviews, features, quotes in articles, podcast interviews and guest posts.

We go for big media hits, of course. But again, the value of simple numbers may not tell the whole story. If you’re a health data company in Vancouver, or a Seattle startup focusing on healthtech innovation, where’s the best place for your name to appear?

A prominent media hit in exactly the right type of niche trade publication for your business sector, that gets say 1,000 readers? One that gets you in front of exactly the right audience of prospects or investors?

That could be worth a lot more to you than a large quote in the New York Times' page 12.

Once you've got the results you want, it's time to leverage the results of a PR campaign for maximum success.

Or you’ve measured the success of your PR campaign -- and well, it’s just not there. Your PR agency isn’t getting the results you want.

To get the results that matter to your company, contact our Vancouver PR firm


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