5 ways to prove your PR campaign impacts profits

Recently, I attended a  workshop called ‘Demonstrating the value of PR to the bottom line’ at the PR Institute of Ireland. Hosted by Dr. Martina Byrne, it was a thought-provoking day, with both agency and in-house communications professionals offering keen observations on the measurement of Public Relations and proving our worth. Scroll down to see five common communications and business objectives, and how to measure campaigns around them.

Measurement and evaluation of PR campaigns have never been more important. While reputation management, consumer engagement, brand awareness and affinity are all components of successful PR, our ultimate definition of success is often seen in how we contribute to the bottom line. Scroll down for five strategies to prove your worth.

59% think measurement is “too complex”

Whether you’re working on an in-house corporate communications team looking for an increased budget or an agency looking to demonstrate your value to a client, measuring the success of your campaigns effectively is vital. Despite this, 59% of Public Relations professionals surveyed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication in 2013 said that biggest barrier they face in measuring their success is that it’s “too complex”.

This is not good enough. As an industry, we can and must do better. If we want PR to be regarded as an essential rather than a nice-to-have, we must demonstrate how our activities impact the organisation’s profit margin. Otherwise, our demands for greater spend will justifiably fall on deaf ears.

Define success criteria at the beginning, not the end

The measurement and evaluation of a Public Relations campaign or activity depends on the communications objectives of the campaign, which should always relate to a business objective. When your organisation successfully achieves a business objective, it is essential that the PR team can show which communications objectives were aligned to support this and contribute to it.

Measure the quantitative outputs of your campaign

In traditional media, quantitative measures (that means stuff you can count) can include press clippings, circulation and readership figures, opportunities to see, air time and volume of coverage. For digital media, quantitative measures include web rankings, followers gained, website visitors, and social media engagement (number of likes, comments, shares, retweets)

Evaluate the qualitative value of the campaign

Assess the impact the activity had on the tone blogger comments, hold focus groups for consumer feedback, monitor any commentary by public figures including celebrities or politicians, gauge the impact on community sentiment on your social media channels. Internally, it’s possible to run surveys to find if the campaign had an effect on employee morale.

AVEs are dead

Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) have been widely discredited as a mechanism for evaluating PR. As Dr Byrne noted on the day, measuring our own industry by the yardstick of another shows an alarming lack of confidence in our own abilities. There is no common measurement for advertising and editorial, and it is akin to asking a footballer how many tries he scored in his last game.

What’s the alternative?

Here is a simple, consistent formula for calculating the value of your campaign based on total spend versus audience reached. The Cost Per Thousand reached formula has been adopted by some of the world’s largest PR firms, including Edelman, Ogilvy, and FleischmanHillard. It’s calculated by dividing the total cost of the campaign by the number of stakeholders reached.

Outcomes: A vital component of evaluation

Measuring outcomes depends on the objective of the campaign, and is an essential step beyond measuring output. Here are some practical ways to measure PR outcomes based on communications and business objectives. Scroll down for a handy, sharable infographic.

1) Objective: More sales leads
Where media relations is the main method of reaching a target audience, leads or sales can be monitored by benchmarking the period before the PR campaign with the period after. Quarterly results for a given product or service can be compared on a before-and-after basis, allowing the PR team to demonstrate their impact.

2) Objective: Increased sales
Companies like Southwest Airlines have proven the value of their PR activity by adding a link from their press releases to a point-of-sale on the website and tracking if users follow through to a purchase (this is a lot easier to do than it might sound).

3) Objective: Show a change of attitude
Since the role of Public Relations is to influence consumer knowledge, attitudes and behaviour, measuring how these factors are impacted over time is a useful way of demonstrating PR’s contribution. Conducting monthly, quarterly or annual surveys and polling can result in revealing insights into how a particular PR initiative or program is impacting consumer behaviour. Read more on this in the PR Council’s e-book, Measuring the Impact of PR on Sales.

4) Objective: Demonstrate the value for money of a given campaign
Using the Cost per Thousand formula above, calculate the reach of your campaign as compared with the cost. Then do the same with a campaign from last year. This should show how you’re making your budget go further than ever.

5) Objective: Evaluate the impact of PR output in the media
This method requires collecting coverage in print, broadcast, online and other vehicles over a period of time and carrying out critical analysis of the coverage. Factors considered include share of voice news item placement, headline, initial mention, extent of mention, dominance and visuals.


How do you track, measure and show your PR campaign’s success? What methods do you use for evaluation?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts – I want to hear from you!

Connect with us on social media for more posts on trends and best practices in Marketing and Communications. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art is a practical guide to creating integrated communications campaigns. It’s all about achieving optimum PR outcomes using the PESO model. Pre-order it now.

10 thoughts on “5 ways to prove your PR campaign impacts profits

  1. Ian Mac Eochagáin says:

    Reminds me a lot of the stuff we do at my workplace, M-Brain. We have a lot of our own metrics and in-house methods for working out how much of an impact companies’ own initiatives have. Measuring social media impact is, by the way, fraught with uncertainty in my opinion.

    You might be interested in reading about our social media best practices framework with its eight steps:

    • Wilde Words says:

      Thanks Ian – I’ll definitely check that out. I agree that measuring social media can be a challenge, and almost impossible unless you use a variety of different types of metrics (like number of followers, level of engagement and sentiment) combined, as you’ll never get a clear picture looking at just one. As mentioned in the post though, my belief is that just because it’s a complex task doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Haroun MALAMI says:

    The measuring metrics of social media I personally adopted are highlighted in your article,Which has been source of disagreement with some of my colleagues,these will serve as reference point,thank you.

  3. Kris says:

    Polls and surveys are very costly ? How do you justify the cost of measurement ?
    I have an issue understanding the method of analysis for objective 5.
    Is this type of a content analysis ?
    Thank a lot

    • Wilde Words says:

      Hi Kris, with all the free and low-cost tools available these days, it doesn’t have to be costly – but a proportion of the budget for any campaign should be set aside for measurement and evaluation.

      For the last one, it’s a qualitative analysis – you take your coverage for the last quarter and analyse the placement, the headline, the sentiment etc to see if it matches the objectives you set at the beginning of the campaign.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *