ADPR InsightHow toPR measurement 29.11.2023

Can you put a price on PR success? How to measure the ROI of your PR campaign

How can I measure the success of a PR campaign? It’s a question that never gets old! And that’s because there’s still no definitive answer.

Whether you are a PR pro or an organisation working with an agency, understanding how best to measure the success of our PR campaign is crucial, but its not always easy.

Why is it important? Well, there’s lots of reasons, but the most important one… you need to be able to show that your investment, whether it’s internal or external, is justified.

That’s why ad value equivalent, AKA ‘AVE’, was born. AVEs are used to estimate the amount of revenue attributed to an article based on size. So, for example, if you secure a half page of editorial content in a magazine, you will then check what the rate card ad price is, let’s say it’s £2,500, and then multiply that by three, to get the PR value – that’s assuming the reader is three times as likely to act (such as buy something) as a result from editorial coverage vs an ad.

That’s why AVEs were (and for some, still are) popular. It puts a numerical value on PR coverage secured and can be compared to investment to calculate ROI, which makes sense, right? Wrong! Admittedly, it sounds great, but there are a few flaws:

  • Editorial content is significantly different to paid content. For a start, if you’re booking an ad, you have almost complete control over what goes into it, and the reader knows that. Your aim is to grab attention. When it comes to editorial coverage, the reader is looking for information from an independent credible source.
  • AVEs do not measure the sentiment of a piece of coverage or the contents. This is important as it dictates the value of the coverage. For example, is it positive or negative, does it include a key message, a link or a quote, is it a review, thought leadership article or a press release?
  • It doesn’t measure your campaign goals, whether that’s awareness and brand positioning, or increase in number of sales. Maybe you are a not-for-profit and your aim is to highlight an important issue and campaign for change, how will an AVE be of any use to you?
  • Editorial coverage in non-target media outlets is of no value to your goals and objectives, regardless of high circulation numbers.
  • It doesn’t measure the impact of the coverage – did it get social media amplification, comments and impressions for example?
  • PR campaigns are not just focused on securing media coverage as a tactic. A campaign could include owned content, crisis comms, reputation management (staying out the media!), events, collaborations and much more.

What’s the alternative?

Not all PR campaigns are created equal, and so, like most things in life, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to measuring success.

Every PR campaign will have unique goals and objectives depending on what it is trying to achieve, whether that’s reaching a defined target audience, creating and sharing content that grabs the attention of the public, building trust, launching a new product or generating new leads… the list goes on!

Measuring on circulation or reach is a valuable metric, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. PR isn’t just about securing media coverage, it is about influencing, engaging, and building relationships with your target audience across several platforms to shape and frame the perception of your business.

So, what are some of the metrics you can use in addition to reach or circulation?

  • Media coverage on message – your coverage is in the right magazines and follows your storyline and key messages.
  • Share of voice – you can review your share of voice against a competitor before and after your campaign.
  • Taking action – such as registrations, requests for a call back, downloads etc.
  • Social and email marketing – engagement of your content across your owned and paid for channels.
  • Website stats – If you’re focusing on digital PR, are you getting links included and does it drive traffic? Does your owned content drive traffic, how long are they staying on your site?
  • SEO impact – does your online coverage include a backlink, is the media outlet ranking high on Google?
  • Reviews and recommendations – endorsements for your company and products with influencers and key media.

These are just a few, there are more but not all of them will be relevant to your brand or campaign.

So, what’s the answer? Can you put a price on PR success? Sometimes you might be able to, for example your piece of coverage has a tracked product link included, and you can see 15 people clicked on it and bought it. But that doesn’t include the 75 other people that read your story and then saw your brand pop up on Facebook a week later, and then decide to make a purchase. Again, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Plus, if your target audience prefers a paper magazine, then it’s pretty much impossible to track direct sales.

To conclude, metrics aren’t valuable in isolation. We need to choose the ones that make sense and are meaningful to the success we are trying to demonstrate.

How can we do this? Through following a framework, such as AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework, which was the first attempt to try to create a more unified approach to valuing communications activities.

If you want to discuss how ADPR can help you better measure the value of your communications, book your free Revitalise and Grow session here. You’ll get a 30-minute one-to-one online session with our communications expert. Or you can simply request a call back to talk further.

You may also like to listen to this episode of the Revitalise & Grow podcast, where we delve deeper in to ‘Data driven PR’ and share insights from our recent attendance at PR Week’s Measurement Conference.