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How do you measure PR?

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This isn’t a new question by any stretch of the imagination – it’s rumbled around the corridors of PR agencies since time began. But it’s an important question and should be talked about before you undertake any PR activity.

In one of our earlier articles, we talk about how to find the right PR agency for your business and our recommendation is that before you commit to an agency, you need to decide why you’re doing this and what you need to achieve from PR, what your ROI will be, etc.

Sales will always be a top answer but PR can also improve your SEO, or it might be you just need some good, positive coverage which will improve your reputation in a certain sector or region. Again, you have to know what you’re trying to get out of this activity before you can measure it - but enough about that. Once you know the answer to that question, it’s time to think about ways in which you can measure your PR activity.

With this in mind we have listed below some of the best ways you can measure PR, which you may find helpful if you’ve just recruited a PR agency:

1) AVE or Advertising Value Equivalent: The oldest and crudest measure of PR, which basically measures column inches and tells you what those inches would cost if you’d have paid for this space with advertising. However, the crudeness of AVE has also been its friend over the years, as it shows how much coverage you’re getting, and at what potential cost. But what AVE doesn’t do is look at the tone of the article or whether or not the coverage is relevant – for example, if you’re selling bicycles, an article in ‘Chicken Sexer Monthly’ isn’t going to get you much in terms of sales.

2) Google Analytics: Since around 2010, all PR professionals have needed to be familiar with Google Analytics. In analytics, you can see any traffic that an online article drove but also how that traffic behaved once it got to your website – for example, did they look at three more articles on your website, or look at the “About us” page, or even contact you? (the holy grail!)

3) SEO positions: Or how you rank on major search engines for certain terms. For example, if you sell travel insurance and currently rank 63rd for the term “travel insurance”, it’s worth checking where you are after each PR campaign. This is because a mention of your brand on a credible website such as The Guardian or BBC will tell Google that you are an authority in that area, and they are more likely to put your brand higher up the rankings.

So, whilst AVE is a stat to bear in mind, it should never be used in isolation when measuring your PR activity as it only tells one chapter of the story. Most media monitoring agencies will now also analyse your coverage to tell you how positive or negative this is, where it appeared on the page and how many people might have seen it. It can also tell you how you appeared vs your competitors – however, the more information you ask for, the more you tend to pay.

Again, analytics isn’t the whole story but if you’ve had a batch of good press coverage, you need to get access to analytics and understand what this did for your business.

This can be a great way to measure the success of your PR activity, and if you marry this up with analytics, you can see the increase in your organic traffic as a result of your new position. You just need to log into your Google analytics account and click:

Acquisition > All traffic > channels and this will pull up a table of your traffic and which channel this came from. (See below)

Google analytics screenshot

Collaboration with other marketing channels: There’s no denying that PR works best if you have it alongside other marketing channels. If you have a campaign where your social and PR campaigns are saying the same thing and you back this up with some paid-for advertising, you will almost certainly see results.

However, if you’re a small company with a limited marketing budget, then you can’t always have all three working together. Which is where an agency can often help – they can ensure that your budget is used to the max and often have the ability and buying power to maximise your budget.

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