Measuring PR success in terms of quantity and quality


Although PR itself is not “hard” science, there are definitely ways to measure the ROI of your PR efforts. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative metrics, PR results can be measured, analyzed and compared.

Sixty cold calls result in three new magazine subscriptions. Conversion: 5 percent. An email campaign sent to seven hundred customers makes fourteen of them buy your new product. Conversion: 2 percent. An in-depth interview with your CEO on her vision and goals for 2017 is picked up by several blogs and is widely read by your target audience. Conversion: no idea.

Though it should be obvious your PR practices play a vital role in promoting your organization and its products and services, you probably have a significantly harder time determining the actual value than your colleagues at the marketing and sales departments do. Their hard metrics of leads and sales are usually not applicable to your content and its success, which could very well match those cold calls and (semi-)anonymous emails. Still, there are several ways to quantitatively measure the ROI of PR. With the added value of qualitative analysis, it’s possible to keep track of your performance and use it to base future predictions and strategies on.

Quantitatively measuring PR results

What you should NOT do when describing your PR success in quantitative terms, is use the well-known but highly criticized Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVE). Putting a dollar value on media coverage and using it to compare with advertising costs is problematic for a number of reasons. In many cases no actual advertising rates exist, for example, and there is no factual basis for the assumption that a news story of a particular size has equal impact to an advertisement of the same size.

The Barcelona Principles, a set of seven voluntary guidelines established by the PR industry itself, calls for the specific exclusion of AVE metrics in measuring the efficacy of PR campaigns. Quantitatively measuring PR results, following the Barcelona Principles, includes tracking metrics like impressions among the stakeholder or target audience. You may consider tracking some or all of the following:

  • Detailed reach of media coverage: circulation for print media, number of visitors or specific page views for online media

  • Number of pageviews for publication on own website

  • Social media: impressions and (new) followers, using tools like Twitter Analytics and Facebook Insights

  • Number of downloads for offered white papers, videos, infographics etc.

Qualitatively measuring PR results

Since PR efforts generally don’t (have to) result in direct conversions, keeping score of quantitative metrics will only get you so far. Practicing PR is literally more about building quality relations with your target audience and stakeholders, and you should incorporate this into your analysis accordingly. In addition to the aforementioned quantitative statistics, and again following the Barcelona Principles, media measurement should account for the quality of the media coverage, including but not limited to:

  • Tone

  • Credibility and relevance of key message delivery

  • Third-party or company spokesperson quotes

  • Prominence as relevant to the medium

Scores on measures like these can of course be negative as well as positive (or neutral). You may want to assign numerical scores on scales from 1-5 or 1-10 to facilitate comparisons between campaigns, channels or time periods.

The same goes for social media coverage. Being a trending topic on Twitter is one thing, but if it’s because you’re being ridiculed or criticized, it is of no – positive – value to you at all. Fortunately, there are many social media monitoring tools to track both quantitative metrics and sentiment. It’s exactly this combination of hard and soft data that will help you make sense of your PR efforts’ success. Comparing results through campaigns and time will ultimately enable you to predict future outcomes and adjust your strategy accordingly.

For more help with streamlining and optimizing your work processes, check out our article on useful tools for PR professionals.


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