Public relations faces an almost scientific dilemma: William T. Kelvin, the physicist and mathematician who created the thermometric scale named after him, said, they need to be measurable in order to improve. Fortunately, although standard criteria have not been found to assess what works and what does not when undertaking campaigns or actions, there are some metrics that help weigh our work with some objectivity.

The hunger for indicators that justify the investment in the area is led by company directors. They need communications/marketing managers to prove that the allocated budget results in growth and business leads. The PR agencies, their allies are in the same race, pushing together with those managers so that the KPIs of the area are met and proving to managers the progress of the company positioning in their audiences, although these results cannot always be directly related to increases in sales. We do not forget that achieving commercial objectives is the product of integrated work from all business areas, not just from PR, but anyway, we can deal with this topic in another column.

So what can PR measure? At the agency, the metrics that we use the most and/or are best pondered by our clients are:

  • Clippings/interviews in Tier 1 media: We are committed to quality rather than quantity. Getting posts in 50 media outlets a month. If most of them are Tier 2 or Tier 3 does not have the same impact as if the brand appears in 5 Tier 1 posts. Why? Chances that the key messages reach the target audience are greater in them.
  • OTS (Opportunity To See): it is the average number of times that a person from the target audience will be able to see a specific ad in the media; that is, it is a meter of the opportunities for our campaign to be seen.
  • Reach: the scope of our content in online media. There are some sites in the network that measure it, some more reliable than others.
  • Backlinks: it is the link to our client’s website published by another website (for example, that of a media outlet). The more backlinks we can generate in target media, the better positioned our client’s website will be. Supporting their SEO strategy and their ability to turn these visits into sales.
  • UTM: UTM codes, also called UTM parameters, are text fragments that appear at the end of URLs and allow, via Google Analytics, to detect the origin of the traffic that reaches a website. Although it is not easy for a medium to include them in their publications – like backlinks –. For some clients it is a metric that must be posted.
  • Share of voice:measures the participation in the market of your client, as regards competition. To measure it, you must divide the mentions your brand got on the chosen platforms by all the mentions in the market.
  • DA (Domain Authority): measures the authority of a web page, either that of our client and/or that of the media where our client is published. Moz has an algorithm that assigns a value to the authority/influence of the web to be measured from 0 to 100. The higher the index, the greater the relevance.
  • AVE/Ad Savings: This metric is one of the oldest to quantify results mainly in print publications. Although this metric enjoys less credibility in the industry, there are still clients who ask to include it in the monthly reports for all types of mentions. Even in digital media. This indicator assigns a monetary value according to the size of the publication where the brand is mentioned and according to the advertising value that each medium assigns to that space. So it can often provide large figures that generate a questionable sensation of success.

In our experience, a single tool does not allow us to make a comprehensive evaluation of the success of our PR strategy. Since we can fall into “vanity” metrics that bulge our figures but do not account for other aspects that are relevant to the client. Such as the quality, the number of brands mentioned in the article, number of key messages, quotes from the spokesperson, or any other parameter that would better judge the effectiveness of that particular campaign.

What about you? What metrics do you use to determine whether your PR campaigns are working or not?