PR Measurement 2021: A Cheat Sheet for Ultimate ROI

Year after year, public relations professionals and most businesses investing in PR, often find it hard to show a solid ROI when it comes to their public relations efforts. While any good businessperson knows this skill is important, many often fail to fully develop the capabilities to track useful data and show tangible results for their efforts.

The problem? PR doesn’t always have a direct correlation to increased sales. The reality is that PR is a marathon… not a sprint to get cash in the bank. However, the true reality is that companies spend about $11 billion annually on PR services, and they should know how that spend impacts their bottom line!

In 2020, these steps can help take your PR initiatives to the next level by capturing data, measuring effectiveness, and ultimately proving the return on your PR campaigns.

Step 1: Know What PR is and why you are Investing in it

PR is the practice of building mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its stakeholders, and building those relationships takes time. Whereas many marketing initiatives can provide a quick boost in sales, executing PR initiatives and their payoffs are long-term. It takes months or even years to develop meaningful relationships with the media and consumers and improve the perception of your business.

PR should be undertaken as a long-haul commitment to build and improve your company’s reputation with stakeholders, solidifying your organization’s identity and creating brand affinity. PR helps your customers and other stakeholders understand who you are and what you stand for by providing third-party validation through earned media.

However, it is very important to note that Public Relations alone cannot be your company’s sole tactic for success. Media coverage alone will not distribute coupons, build a user-friendly website, or target specific demographics with absolute precision the way other marketing efforts do. While PR is an effective way to develop and amplify your organization’s message, you should not rely on it as a magic sales bullet.

Step 2: Decipher Which Results Matter Most

Knowing the objectives that matter to the health of your business is the next step in refining PR efforts and tracking their effectiveness. Bringing your whole team into the fold to explore which results are the most important helps define the performance indicators against which your PR results will be measured. For example, your sales and marketing team may be interested in increasing lead generation, so your PR metrics should track how many referrals to your online form-fill are secured after earned media coverage goes live.

Understanding the results your teams are chasing can help you formulate PR strategies that support those objectives and also empower you to track PR’s contributions toward success.

Step 3: Know the Different Forms of Measurementcalculate your content marketing ROI

PR measurement has come a long way over the years. There are some traditional metrics that are still used today, such as the number of media hits; impressions, which simply means how many people have seen your coverage; and media value, which uses advertising costs to put a dollar amount to the earned media you have secured. However, as PR has evolved over the years, so have the ways to measure its effectiveness.

Here are a few common forms of measurement used in modern PR campaigns:

  • Surveys: Before the start of a PR campaign, you can launch a survey to establish a baseline for a better understanding of what current and potential clients think of your brand. After 6-12 months of your campaign, relaunch the survey and compare the results. This is a great way to quantify jumps in awareness and improvements in brand perception.
  • Share of voice: This is the percentage of the market a brand holds in a given time period compared to its competitors. Essentially, this metric measures the percent of earned media coverage there is for your company and your competitors. Ongoing measurement of this metric is a good way to see how your PR efforts stack up compared to other market players.
  • Sentiment: Brand sentiment analysis measures people’s opinions and views about a product, service, or organization. Track changes in sentiment throughout the course of your PR efforts to see how people are talking about your brand over time.
  • Key messages: Your communications initiatives likely include some key messages about your company, such as a tagline or other rally cry. Logging often these key messages appear in PR coverage can gauge the effectiveness of your media relations efforts and how well your media partners convey your ideas as third-party reviewers.
  • Website visits: Tracking when earned media drives visits to your website is one of the best indicators of success. You can monitor for spikes in web traffic after a broadcast segment airs or a print article publishes, and if an online article includes a link to your site, you can even measure how many people clicked on that link to reach your content.

Step 4: Load up Your Toolkit

As many forms of PR measurement as there are, there are even more tools out there for tracking those results. These tools range from completely free to up to tens of thousands of dollars per year. Most of them offer free consultations and walkthroughs, so be sure to take advantage of those so that your purchases are well-informed and the best fit for your business.

Here are a few tools to consider:

  • Google tools: These include Google Alerts, Google Analytics, and Google Trends. All of these are completely free, but they are some of the most useful ones out there. Use Google Alerts to receive a daily digest of online news related to any search term, helping you keep a pulse on important topics for your company and industry.

Google Analytics allows you to capture and analyze your website data. For example, you can see how many visitors were referred to your website from an online earned media article and even track how many of those went on to make an online purchase. The possibilities are endless, so sign up for a Google Analytics course so you can be prepared to dig into this treasure trove of data.

Google Trends analyzes the popularity of top Google search queries. As you secure more and more earned media coverage for your organization, you can view how search terms for your brand have increased over time.

  • Embrace the Social Media Toolbox: It’s no secret that any good PR campaign also includes various elements of social media. Make it a priority to review all of your social media metrics before and after a PR push in order to determine; who’s talking about your brand, new engagement levels with potential clients, viewership of your earned media assets via social media channels, and additional lead capture or sales inquiries in the days following the launch of your PR campaign.
  • Monitor… and monitor some more: There are not a plethora of media monitoring services available to businesses of all sizes. The key is to determine which metrics are most important to your business before you invest. TrendKite is a media monitoring service that was recently purchased by another platform, Cision. It captures broadcast, online, and print coverage. TrendKite also provides you with media value, impressions, social shares, share of voice, and even analyzes articles’ SEO impact. TrendKite does offer a free version, but for the best tracking, you will need a paid subscription.

Similar tools to TrendKite include Agility PR, Metro Monitoring, Inc., CoverageBook, and countless others. Be sure to explore the free demos, review prices, and ask the sales rep lots of questions to determine which platform offers the capabilities you need at a price that is right for you.

  • Research like a boss: In order to track brand perception and brand awareness – before and after your PR campaign, it is essential to consider doing some research. We love platforms like SurveyMonkey, which is a free to low-cost tool that allows you to survey your current email and/or social media database. You can use this to track brand perception before and after a PR campaign, learn more about audience preferences in your industry, and gather insights about your existing product or service.

Resolve to Measure Your PR in 2021

Measuring your PR ROI is easier and more informative than ever thanks to the many new forms of data tracking and the tools that support it. Make sure you understand how PR works, why your company is considering PR and how your PR efforts should impact your bottom line. If you need support for your PR measurement goals in the new year, reach out to us at 480-305-2017 or


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