Finding the Right Metrics to Prove Online PR Results

Posted filed under Media Relations, Social Media.

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Not too long ago, PR pros were convinced that the only effective way of proving results was through counting clips of media coverage and/or AVEs (advertising value equivalents). Don’t get me wrong — showing PR results through positive and quality media coverage will forever remain valuable. It’s important to show that awareness has been raised about the company or a specific initiative, and it’s great for comparing against competitors (and share of voice), but media/blog coverage can and should be complemented by other important metrics — particularly if social media and other online efforts are part of your PR strategy.

In my daily work and reading, I continuously find varying opinions on whether success in social media is determined by several factors or direct sales via social channels should be your primary goal. But there is one thing we can all agree on — access to data now allows us to provide valuable metrics to prove PR results.

However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all these new measurement opportunities, and you may not know where to start. So, while the ideal end goal of online PR and marketing efforts is to show business results, if you aren’t measuring sales figures right off the bat, there are several other options.

The point is that you need to find valuable ways to measure that go deeper than clips, follower/like counts, impressions…or those dreaded AVEs (the European Summit on Measurement held in Barcelona in 2010 officially squashed AVEs as a valid form of measurement). When standing alone, the above mentioned simply are not strong enough metrics.

Rather than focusing only on those metrics (or worse, not measuring at all), here are some metrics that matter that you can add to your measurement arsenal:

• How often and where people are consuming (downloading, viewing) and sharing (posting on social networks) your content

• How much traffic your online content drives to your website

• How many new business leads you’ve generated from your online efforts

• How many people complete a desired outcome (download a coupon or e-book, subscribe to your blog or e-newsletter, submit contact information via a form on your site or blog). Take the coupon one step further and track how many sales result from that downloaded coupon.

• Share of voice (how often your company is mentioned online in a given period of time compared with your competitors)

• New relationships built with influencers, media, and bloggers via social networks in a given period of time

• Number of detractors turned into promoters thanks to your online efforts

• How many new people opt in to receive company communications (e-mails and e-newsletters) as a result of online efforts

Those should give you a good start to proving valuable results through online PR efforts. But don’t forget the holy grail of measurement — everything needs to point back to your original goals for why you’re employing online strategies in the first place. And if your current PR team isn’t focused on valuable measurement and proving how PR efforts achieve company goals, then it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate things.

How have/do you prove online PR results? What didn’t I include in my list of suggested ways to measure?

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Nikki Little serves as an account director on Identity’s social media team and is responsible for managing the internal operations and growth of the team. She also manages several of Identity’s clients, focusing on integrating social media strategy with traditional communications efforts to help companies build brand awareness, create new customer relationships and grow their business. Additionally, Nikki manages the content on Identity’s blog, ID Tags.

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Shauna Nicholson
Shauna Nicholson

Great post, Nikki! This is a nice breakdown. Another one: Facebook has just (today, I believe) begun to track relevance of consumption by letting you know which demographics are most often engaging with your content.

Nikki Little (Stephan)
Nikki Little (Stephan)

Thanks, Shauna. That means a lot coming from you because you are a self-proclaimed metric nuts! I always learn a lot from your posts. Good addition on the relevance of consumption for Facebook, so thanks for sharing.

Han Ma
Han Ma

Excellent advice outlining the content that matters in measurement. Am interested in learning more about some tools that you would recommend utilizing to calibrate those measurements. With all the analytics tools out there (Klout, Reppify, Clicky, Radian6, Quantcast, etc.), which ones do you think provide PR pros with the best platforms for accurate SM measurements. As in any business endeavor, the numbers are important, but so is the validity behind those numbers. Also wanted to note the importance of blending both warm and cold metrics. Although businesses always want the return on investment - when dealing with social media, they should also place emphasis on the return on influence. Here's an interesting post in the HBR a few weeks ago that I thought you would enjoy:

Nikki Little (Stephan)
Nikki Little (Stephan)

Thanks for reading and for the feedback! The tools you use totally depends on what you want to measure. All the ones you listed are good tools (Klout has it's place, but I would argue the other tools are move valuable). Google Analytics is also a big one because it's free and it provides SO much valuable data. At Identity, we use Sysomos Heartbeat for monitoring, reporting and measuring clients' online activity. I agree that blending warm and cold (qualitative and quantitative) metrics is important. I, like many other PR pros, am learning as I go as to what makes the most sense and provides the most value when it comes to measuring online PR efforts. But the point is to go above and beyond the immediate obvious to dig up the good stuff.