5 Essential PR Metrics to Measure Earned Media

PR has traditionally struggled to measure its results and quantify its contribution to concrete business objectives. PR measurement experts decry advertising value equivalence (AVE), which rates earned media by comparing it to advertising of similar size and placement, as an invalid metric.

The days of evaluating public relations campaigns by counting clips and measuring column inches are long gone. PR now has new tools at its disposal that help analyze its earned media accomplishments with these metrics.

Website referrals. Website analytics offer the most basic PR measurement tool. Information on referral traffic under the Google Analytics acquisition tab can reveal website traffic from media placements – sometimes. Some online publications may not include a link to your site when mentioning your organization. Still, many PR measurement pros will credit a key media placement for an ensuing spike in website traffic — even if the news outlet did not link to their website. Web analytics can also indicate if traffic from earned media referrals converts.

Mentions. A media monitoring tool can report which media outlets (as well as which social media users) mention your brand. Although free options are available, paid services aggregate data into a central online dashboard, identify trends and help streamline your media outreach, says Robyn Rudish-Laning, vice president of communications for the South Carolina PRSA Chapter.

“Setting a handful of searches and alerts is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s being discussed,” Rudish-Laning says.

Message resonance. Message resonance reports if your most desirable key messages are included in media coverage. Select one or two succinct key messages, and then identify through media measurement how many articles include those key messages. “This metric is especially helpful in determining whether or not the media understood the key points of a launch, a new company direction or corporate strategy, says Jennifer Usher, an account director at Shift Communications Usher.

Share of voice. Share of voice compares your media mentions to those of competitors. If there were 100 mentions of you and your competitors online and your business was in 35 of those, then your share of voice would be 35 percent. That basic computation doesn’t reveal publications’ readership information or if mentions were positive or negative, explains Brendon Stellman, vice president, director of client relations for Milldam Public Relations.

“Ultimately, the share of voice tool you choose to help your marketing and PR efforts needs to take these types of nuances into account to provide lasting value,” Stellman writes. “Assuming you don’t work in a niche industry, figuring out your SOV is too complex to do alone. There are a variety of solutions that can be tailored to your line of work that will monitor and record the media mentions of your company and your competitors.”

Article quality scores. Clients often wish to count the number of clips. They believe that more mentions over time indicate progress. But that strategy doesn’t measure quality. Mentions could be mainly in small, low-quality publications that don’t serve the client’s desired audience. Article content could be neutral or negative.

A solution: Assign a ranking system to rate the quality of each article, Usher suggests. For instance, depending on the client and its audience, you could assign five points for a feature in a business outlet, four points for a feature in a top trade publication, and three points for an executive quote, and other factors. Then, work toward a number goal, either annually or quarterly. More importantly, assign quality scores based on article content with the highest scores reserved for articles that deliver key corporate messages.

This approach enables you to create your own dashboard for media coverage based on those factors that are most important to your organization.

Bottom Line: Anecdotal reports will not convince corporate executives of the value of public relations. With the help of advanced media monitoring and analytics tools, PR professionals can track hard numbers to prove the value of their campaigns to clients and corporate superiors. PR pros can now show results they can brag about and become experts in the corporate boardroom.


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