3 Actionable Ways for PR Pros to Measure Better

The past few months I’ve been speaking quite a bit to public relations and communications professionals at events, most recently for the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America), PR News, and Ragan. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how quickly the PR industry has gotten up to speed on using data to make decisions and how creative many of them are using analytics to improve their programs.

The best professionals realize PR no longer needs to be considered a “soft art,” rather, data lets us transform it into something accountable and actionable. In other words: data can be the key to giving PR a seat at the strategy table, a place in some companies previously reserved for marketing and finance.

Today I wanted to get tactical and provide some immediately actionable ideas for PR pros to start measuring better. I will leave the bigger aspects of building a strategy to you (I’ve actually gone through this previously via a series of posts, as has Google’s Analytics Evangelist Justin Cutroni here).

1. Build an Advanced Segment to Measure Your Target Media Groups

This is super easy to do, something I implement on my own sites to see how media send traffic (and the quality of that traffic) and better qualified the results of my PR initiatives for brands while on the agency side. Let’s say I was a tech start-up and wanted media in a segment to see how it performs from a referral standpoint. I’d build an advanced segment and use a RegEx to copy-paste all the names of media sites from my list I engage with from my database, plus the existing media sites I see in referrals already sending me traffic:


This segment lets me see just the slice of visitors coming to my site from media I care about and understand direct conversions, compare PR with other channels, and report success. Now PR campaigns can be analyzed alongside other digital focus areas.


Of course PR is not always a direct path to purchase – perhaps some won’t convert today but instead later on via an ad or email campaign. This is just fine, as you’ll still be able to see their path via Multi-Channel Funnels. Another idea for PR pros similar to segmenting media traffic to better understand the impact of the content added to their website (such as a news center or blog) is to use our new Content Grouping feature to create a group of just PR content. This will let your team not only demonstrate success in bringing media to the site, but also ensure you are publishing things media are interested in.

2. Measure Your Emails and Press Releases to Journalists Better

All PR pros are likely sending pitches and press releases out via email, wire distribution, and other services. And while it was my experience that on the agency side PR pros did a great job to track coverage, they didn’t always fare so well to qualify all the key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with it. As a blogger in my free time, I click links in media pitches to brand sites and rarely see any campaign tagged. But I recommend you start. Once you tag (and no-follow where appropriate) your links in press releases, media pitches, and guest blog posts, you’ll see directly what’s working and what’s not. It’s as easy as I’ve shown below using our URL Builder:

Now PR will better be credited for any direct conversions from campaigns (right now other teams may be taking credit for your hard work!) and you can understand what links and calls to action are working best in your messaging. Another tip here if your social media management suite doesn’t do it automatically is to shorten your campaign tagged short links via a URL shortener.

3. Start to Apply Hypothesis >>> Action >>> Analysis to Answer Important Questions

My friends at SHIFT Communications had a theory. They thought their earned media was generating new leads for their business, but their analytics simply were not reflecting it. They had a hypothesis that adding a simple field to their “contact us” page asking people interested in their services to answer how they heard about SHIFT would help clarify where the leads were coming from. Through this simple tweak, they discovered earned media and offline marketing (basically, their “dogfood” channels since they focus on this for PR clients) accounted for 20 percent of lead generation. You can read more about this on the SHIFT blog.


This was powerful for their marketing team to better understand and analyze high-quality lead sources and where to allocate assets. It was especially nice to show that the PR tactics they believe in so much for clients were in fact working for themselves.

Wrapping Up

PR is certainly not the same as or as easily measurable as something like direct marketing. Ultimately, PR’s focus should be placed at the top of the funnel and awareness. But establishing what success looks like further down the funnel and trending to it advances what you do to impact business objectives. With the right measurement, digital PR programs should evolve long-term to focus on the top of the funnel purposefully, in a way that impacts specific conversion metrics. Hopefully today’s post inspired your team on just a few ways this is possible and to think about how you bring measurement into your PR processes for both top and bottom of funnel metrics.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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