Measuring and improving your PR

Measuring the success of your public relations (PR) activities will help you identify tools and tactics that work and avoid activities that do not produce results.

It's important to be clear about what you're looking for when you measure your PR. Before you start, review your PR objectives and consider:

  • the target customer segments you have identified
  • the business achievements you identified in your PR objectives
  • the set of key messages you chose to profile your business.

What to measure and how

Stay focused on your target audiences. This not only helps you direct your PR efforts, it also helps you measure changes in their awareness, attitudes and behaviours as a result of your PR activities.

Types of measurements include:

  • the amount and quality of media coverage relevant to your audiences
  • the number of times your key messages reach customers
  • the number of customers contacting you after picking up brochures or catalogues at trade shows
  • people clicking through to your website as the result of web directory listings or your email newsletter
  • social media growth
  • word-of-mouth referrals
  • walk-ups due to increased awareness
  • people phoning your business as the result of PR activities
  • sales increases.

You may find it helpful to use a table or simple database to list your PR objectives and the outcomes achieved.

Using surveys to measure PR

Many businesses create surveys to answer questions about:

  • where customers heard about the business
  • how their awareness, attitudes and behaviour has changed as the result of key messages or PR activity.

Using social media and website traffic to measure PR

Businesses are increasingly using social media to measure their online PR. Taking your PR online makes it easier than ever to track communication about your business. Following online media, blog posts, tweets and e-newsletters - for example - allows you to track what consumers and journalists are saying about your business.

Many businesses communicating with state or national audiences use media monitoring services. This may be unnecessary if you are mainly engaged in local public relations activities and can simply record electronic coverage or obtain copies of newspapers or industry newsletters.

To measure website traffic generated by their public relations activities, many businesses use internet statistics or analysis tools. Your website hosting company may offer a simple tool. Alternatively you can track via a search engine alert service. Businesses often use third-party solutions. Learn more about measuring online performance.

Criteria to measure your PR

Keep in mind that you are not just looking for outputs (the quantity of media you produce) but for outcomes (the quality of relevant messages you produce that meet your PR objectives).

Develop a series of questions that help you measure whether you have met your PR objectives. For example:

  • Did we reach our target audiences?
  • Which of our key messages are reaching our audiences?
  • How often are they reaching our audiences?
  • Which tools and activities are we reaching them through?
  • How many times are those tools and activities successful?
  • Which material was taken up by our media channels?
  • Did they reproduce our photo, footage or sound bytes?
  • What tangible responses to the PR did we receive from our customers?

Your answers to the above questions will help you identify which of your PR activities produced the results you wanted. Keep records about what worked.

Making decisions about your PR

Be careful to evaluate whether the tools, activities and material you used met your goals for building your business's reputation. If your activities generated positive media but did not reach your customer base, you still have work to do.

Review your market research. The information you have gathered about your customer segments will help you look for ways to better target your audiences. Objectives you've identified in your marketing plan may also suit PR tools and approaches. Consider whether it is a PR objective about promoting awareness, attitudes or behaviour change.

Good PR is an ongoing creative process. Be persistent, stay positive and continue looking for opportunities to position your business and encourage consumers to trust, like and use your business.

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