6 ways to measure PR—and get that budget boost

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Say you want to get in shape.

You’ll impress nobody and probably won’t succeed if you set a mere goal (“lose weight”).

But if you set an objective—lose X pounds by June 2014—you’re far more likely to pull it off, says Sandra Fathi, founder and president of Affect, a New York public relations and social media firm.

Your leadership thinks in objectives, and you must track your progress toward their business targets if you want to measure successfully.

In her talk “How to develop an effective PR measurement strategy,” Fathi offers pointers for public relations measurement of a sort that can boost your budget and perhaps even get you promoted. Fail to do so, and you might find your budget trimmed or yourself filing for unemployment when times get hard.

“Will press release pick-up get you promoted?” Fathi asks. “Will ad equivalency equal more budget? Will 1,000 ‘likes’ make the CEO like you more?”

No. Every month when bigwigs get the invoice, they want to know what they are getting for the outlay, she says. “And we have to have a good answer.”

Yet people in PR and marketing tend to measure what’s convenient, not what matters, she says. Nobody cares, she says, about your Klout score. No CEO ever said on an earnings call, “We got 50 retweets this week!”

Here are a few pointers:

Be specific

A goal is vague: “I want to increase awareness,” Fathi says. A specific objective is a way to stick out your neck: “I want to secure coverage in 20 top-tier publications.”

If you write a press release that lands a great New York Times story, dig deeper. What was the result?

“This is a business outcome your CEO cares about: We got a 15 percent spike in sales that day,” Fathi says.

Talk in terms of your leaders’ goals and objectives

Set priorities by understanding what you can and cannot influence through PR. That way you can re-engineer existing programs and “cease programs and activities that don’t map to goals.”

Is that newsletter driving sales? If not, you should know so you won’t waste your time. Put those resources back into achieving goals.

Compare PR efforts against sales

This is something nearly every publicist and marketer can do.

“You can take a look at your PR activity over time, track it on a graph, and look at sales during that same time and track it on a graph,” Fathi says.

You may see that the peaks and valleys correlate with your PR activity. It may not prove causality, but it’s evidence that you’re making a difference. Take it to your executive.

Use your call center

If you have a call center, chart the peaks in calls against your PR campaigns.

“How many calls did we get the day the ‘Today’ show segment aired?” Fathi says. “How much Web traffic did we get when that Wall Street Journal article hit?”

Add data-gathering questions to your call center’s script. How did you hear about this? The media? Facebook? CNBC?

“If she doesn’t have it in her script, it’s never going to get captured,” Fathi says.

Tie results to your specific activities

Let’s say Ragan Communications is promoting a conference (Fathi’s example). The beloved Chicago company puts out a press release. Seven people sign up. Crain’s Chicago Business writes an article. Ten more people sign up. Take credit.

“It doesn’t always have to be so incredibly complicated,” Fathi says.

[RELATED: Prove the ROI of your digital efforts after hearing these top-rated case studies in February.]

Use ‘tripwires’

Maybe those folks in IT won’t give you the keys to the analytics on your website. So set up your own tripwires. Add tracking links, or set it up so customers have to give their email addresses to get your white paper or infographic.

“Create opportunities to capture data,” Fathi says.

In the end, it’s all about distinguishing outcomes that result from your efforts. If you produce a YouTube video that nabs 100,000 views, don’t do chest-bumps in the office. Track the outcomes.

Did it do anything for the business? Did it increase your Web traffic, your downloads? Did customers call?

Answer those questions, and you might find more money in your budget next year.

@r_working 

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