How do you know if your PR campaign is working?

Four Ways To Measure Success 

The best way to measure the value of your work is to assess it against the client’s objectives and establish metrics that matter right from the outset.

You can stick to the basics hoping that a virtual pile of hits will  translate into business success for your client or you can create a more nuanced measurement grid to take into account all your PR activities and their impact.  

As you shape your PR program, make sure to think about how these five SMART objectives can help you build a credible and accountable campaign.

  • Specific: make sure you consider how many  placements, interviews, bylines, analyst briefings, blogs and any other output in your thinking
  • Measurable: include metrics that you can track such as social shares, or web visits
  • Achievable: ensure that anticipated results are attainable
  • Relevant:  align your campaign content with the company goals
  • Time-bound: think about timing, with a beginning, middle and an end to each campaign phase  

With SMART goals in mind, PR success can be measured in terms of four key buckets:  outputs, outtakes, outcomes and impacts. Let’s dive into these four types of metrics, which usually rely on a combination of the following:

  • Placements
  • Media impressions
  • Reach
  • Photo, quote and/or key message inclusion
  • Share of voice
  • Share of search
  • Web traffic
  • Social media engagement
  • Business leads

Outputs: What is Produced

Simple Tally

Output is one of the most straight-forward metrics because these are countable. In general, your outputs are the activities you perform.  Yes, they should include how many media you pitch, the number of interviews or analyst meetings that you arrange and staff and the number of stories you successfully place, along with an assessment of those stories: how many include an executive quote or photo, whether any include the name of the company in the headline, and most importantly, whether there is effective “message pull through.”  They should also include the number of press releases, pitches, blogs, bylined articles you write and/or distribute, as well as any other activities you can easily count.

Murky Metrics: Impressions and Reach

While impressions and reach had for many years been used to measure the impact of a PR program – multiplying the circulation of a print magazine by three to get the total number  of impressions, for example – there are now more specific, more verifiable ways to measure that.  In general, impressions today measure the number of times a piece of content is displayed, and the reach is the number of times a human actually sees it.  But in some cases, the reach can refer to the entire addressable audience for a piece of content, which is not reflective of the actual number of people who engage with it.  For example, the entire circulation of The New York Times didn’t likely see your story on a new sneaker or a new delivery service.  On the other hand, reach can sometimes refer to the number of people that most likely saw the post and in this case,  reach and impressions overlap. It’s for this reason that impressions and reach are murky metrics, not used as often as they once were because they don’t tell you much about how many people actually saw your hits.

Outtakes: What the Audience Understands

How audiences respond to the stories we place tells us what effect our work has on our target. This is a tricky metric to calculate, certainly not as easy to track as the number of clips or releases since it’s more conceptual than numerical. However, you should still strive for this information in order to know if your message is getting through to those who matter.

Share of Voice

Share of voice is one metric that a tool like Meltwater can measure. That is, how much of your audience is talking about your brand in comparison to others in the space.  In order to get a full picture, it’s best to take a snapshot at the beginning of your campaign and again after a few months to see whether you’ve had any impact.

Audience Feedback

Surveying your customers is another way to determine how they feel, or what they think.   This also requires a baseline measurement taken at the beginning of your engagement and then another one later  in order to measure any change.

Outcomes: How the Audience Responds

Does your PR actually motivate an action?  Are people who have read or seen coverage about your company, visiting the website to learn more?  Do they begin following your company or executives on social media, or do they share the article with others? These actions are all trackable or measurable.

Social Media Followers and Interactions

One way to know if the PR is working is to measure whether your follower count has increased. You can also track shares, comments, and other forms of engagement.

Web Traffic

Using Google Analytics, you can tell where your web traffic has come from.  For instance, did your story in TechCrunch motivate traffic to your website? Did your press release attract visitors? Are those visitors engaging on the website by filling out forms or downloading whitepapers?

Impacts: How Your Business is Affected

While certainly the most important metric when assessing the value of a PR campaign, business impact is the most challenging to measure because there are always multiple factors involved. While consistent positive PR will undoubtedly have an effect,  PR works best in synch with other marketing channels including SEO, advertising, direct mail, social media, content marketing, sponsorships.


Through effective storytelling in media that matter, PR can be a great way to enhance your brand’s image.  Consistent, positive coverage over the long term will motivate your prospects to engage, whether downloading a white paper, or scheduling a meeting.

Contact us to learn how we can help you increase the impact of your PR campaign.

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