The PR industry has a bad rap—and we get no respect. The challenge is that, for the most part, what we do:

  • Is not trackable.
  • PR pros have a terrible reputation problem with journalists.
  • You can’t scale it.
  • There is no use putting lipstick on a pig.

Sound about right, based on your experience? The good news is it doesn't have to be that way, but we do have to make some changes—both in the work we do every day and as an industry.

Media Impressions and AVEs?

Too often, we continue to fall back on media impressions and AVEs, even though we know they don't mean much. They're comfortable, they give us something to report on, and executives have come to accept them as our metric. But in a world full of data both to help us make decisions and measure our efforts to real goals, we have to step outside of our comfort zones and start reporting on the things that matter, not made up metrics. For every communicator outside of the U.S., media impressions and AVEs are not only passé, they are fined for using them in their PR metrics reporting. Last year, AMEC announced they are going to invest “significant time and resource to finally kill off this derided metric.” In a paper published on the topic, among the requirements of AMEC members includes:

  • All AMEC members to sign an undertaking that they will not provide AVEs by default to any client. Any client that requests AVE as a metric will receive standard educational material explaining why the metric is invalid and should not be used. They will be offered alternative PR metrics instead.
  • Working with PR Award organizers around the world to introduce a zero-scoring policy if awards entries include AVEs as a metric. AMEC members will not provide an AVE as a metric for any award competition entry.
  • Working closely with academics and PR practitioners to help them help AMEC kill off the demand for the metric which is sustaining it currently.

In direct response to AMEC, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations took it a step further and said any member using AVEs will be banned from the organization.

The new guidelines were presented to the CIPR Council last September, providing members one year to complete a transition to valid PR metrics. If, after that time communicators are still found to be using AVEs, they “may be liable to disciplinary action.”

But Here in the U.S.?

When we judge award entries for the professional organizations, we find the results section to be lacking real business results. They’re focused, instead, on Facebook fans, number of media interviews, and media impressions. It hurts my analytical brain. It hurts my communications heart. PR pros win big awards for measuring their efforts that way so why should it change? It turns out, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Either we can win the big awards and display them in fancy cases in our lobbies. Or we can have a seat at the table, and learn how to take advantage of the web to track against the real things that sustain a business. Things such as increased revenue, shortened sales cycles, and improved margins.

Vanity and Data-Driven PR Metrics

But, here’s the thing: I’m not so numbers driven I don’t recognize the need for vanity PR metrics. It is very difficult to measure brand awareness and the effectiveness of traditional PR—both very necessary in brand building and reputation and consensus and community. Because of that, we have to find ways to measure our efforts in ways that are meaningful to the executives paying us. I’ve broken down the types of things you can measure by vanity (brand awareness) and data-driven (business objectives) PR metrics.

Vanity Metric: Media Relations

Media relations doesn’t mean just working with journalists; it also includes blogger and influencer relations. Because of the web, we no longer have to count on circulation multiplied by two and a half  if it’s a consumer publication. Or multiply circulation by five if it’s a trade outlet. Now you can track how many times an article, blog post, or piece of content was shared. You can figure out how many people saw it, shared it, and read it. Get to know Google Analytics (really, it’s non-negotiable) and track the traffic, views, and social shares. Report to your executives the value of each campaign.

Vanity Metric: Customer Relations

We have a huge opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with our customers via the web. Social media provides the opportunity to connect, engage, and chat. In this case, fans, friends, connections, followers, and viewers make sense to track…when combined with the data-driven metrics.

Vanity Metric: Scaleability

One of the challenges of the industry is that PR can’t scale. That was true in the olden days—even just five years ago. Today though? PR pros are being tasked with boosted posts, promoted tweets, and Outbrain. In the past, because these things would be considered paid media, they would have lived under the advertising roof. But I’m willing to bet, like us, more and more of you are spending time with these tools. Facebook, Twitter, and Outbrain all give you analytics to support your social media buys.

Data Metric: Big Data

For those of you who have been in the industry for a few years, you’ll remember having to sit through focus groups night after night, watching people on the other side of one-sided glass talk about your products or services. I was always happy when the advertising team said we didn’t need to attend. They were so boooooring. The beauty with Big Data is we no longer have to give up our weeknights (and eat pizza four nights in a row) to get information about what our customers think. If you have strong command of all of the data at your fingertips, you will be able to influence high level decisions on product, market positioning, and more. If you don’t know how to sift through the data, look at taking some online courses through Coursera or Cognitive Class.

Data Metric: Shortened Sales Cycle

If you’re in a consumer business, this is less important to you. But in a B2B organization, a sales cycle could be anywhere from two days to two years. Work with your sales team to figure out how long the average sale takes and set a goal to beat it. Let’s say it takes 10 months..set your goal to nine months. The best way to shorten a sales cycle? Stay top-of-mind. The best way to stay top-of-mind? Create valuable and interesting content that is shared in the places your prospects hang out. This could include email, social media, stadiums, subways, websites, and more. The better your content, the more likely your prospects are to read it. The more likely they are to read it (or view it or listen to it), the more likely they are to buy from you. PR pros have ultimate control of this.

Data Metric: Improved Margins

We had a client a few years ago who incentivized us based on how much we helped his margins increased. Just as we were about to get our bonus for an improving their margins by two percent, he decided to buy a Ferrari. That killed the margins and we got no bonus. (I also learned a very valuable lesson.) If you don’t work for a public organization, I recommend staying away from this one. If you do, however, the easiest way to determine your affect on margins is to track how much revenue you generated. Then subtract your budget, your salary, and your benefits (if you work for a PR firm, subtract your budget). The number you end up with is the revenue you’ll use for reporting. Then you’ll have your finance team help you figure out the margins from there. If you increased revenue by more than what you spent, you can pretty much guarantee you improved margins, too.

Data Metric: Increased Revenue

If you don’t work for a public company, having access to the revenue goals may prove a little difficult. But, if your organization is run like mine, the revenue goals are very visible. Figure out how you can affect growth. If you have ecommerce, your campaigns will drive to landing pages where people can buy. If you don’t sell online, your content, email, social media, media relations, and other efforts will be measured through the leads you generate, how you nurture them, and how you help sales convert them. Gain access to the CRM so you know exactly where each lead comes from and whether or not they convert. You have to have access to software the organization so you can track your efforts. That is how you know how much money you’re driving for the business.

Hit These Two Metrics Out of the Park

Now that you have an idea of what to measure for both brand awareness and sales, it's time to dig into how you will use that information to prove your own worth. During the earned media section of this series, you created your benchmarks, so you already know where you started. Now it’s time to measure results! At a high level, your metrics are going to be as simple as:

  • Your domain authority has increased; and
  • You’re ranking on the first page of Google for your topic.

If you hit these two out of the park, everyone will be happy. When people search for your keywords, you’re there. When people are looking for a solution that your organization solves, they find you. They see you on the first page of Google results, they click on your amazingly compelling headline, they visit your site, they fill out a lead form, they go through your lead nurture process, and they become a customer. Hooray!

A B2B Example

But domain authority and search results are just the beginning of how to measure results. Ideally, you want to show a conversion from website visitor to customer. Let me give you an example. We have a client that is a business-to-business manufacturing organization. It’s not a super sexy business, but we’ve been able to have a tremendous effect on their bottom line and help them reach new audiences through contributed content. And I love them for that reason. We worked with Cincinnati media outlets for more than a year, in support of a new facility they opened there. We had a few phases, including pitching interviews, contributed content on third-party sites, and ghostwriting content for the CEO on the company’s blog. The PESO model campaign  was around:

  • Their negotiations with the city
  • The groundbreaking for the new facility
  • Hiring in advance of the grand opening
  • The ribbon-cutting ceremony

This is not exciting content by any stretch of the imagination, but it was very, very useful for them.

Measure Results of Owned and Earned Media

To track results, I created a quick spreadsheet, listing all of the places the client was mentioned during the plant launch and opening. Quickly scanning the list, I can see the SmartBlogs entry was a piece of contributed content from the CEO. Their domain authority is 58, which is higher than the company’s blog. That piece sent 47 visitors, who spent an average of one minute and nine seconds on the site. The call-to-action on that piece was to subscribe to the blog, and you can see that the piece generated one blog subscription. One subscription from 47 visitors isn’t a great conversion rate, but it gives us something to use in our second piece of contributed content. As you can see, the more content we produced, the better the conversion rate. We had about a 35 percent conversion rate and return-on-investment for our contributed content, bringing 277 new visitors to the site with 98 leads generated. This means people did something on the site such as apply for a job, subscribe to the blog, or contact the company through their contact form.

What to Track When You Measure Results

This is how you start to measure your results. You track all the places you are placing content, and the resulting traffic to your website, and the conversion of those from visitors to potential clients. You want to track activities such as:

  • Subscribing to your newsletter
  • Downloading a white paper
  • Watching a video
  • Registering for a webinar
  • Submitting a job application
  • Any other call-to-action you are using on your website

This can be any action that you can track. You’ll note we stopped at the point the visitor is converting into a lead. With this particular client, moving a lead into a closed sale is the job of the sales team, which is pretty typical. But if you can prove a new customer began with your work, you’ve won. Of those 60 people who applied for jobs with our client, we don’t know how many of them were offered a job. What we do know is 10 percent of their qualified leads turn into customers. We can use that on our end to measure results and show a return-on-investment.

Why Links in Articles Are Important

If there were 30 customer leads, 10 percent conversion is three customers. And, if their typical customer generates $250,000 per year in revenue, that means our efforts can be attributed to $750,000 of revenue, which is a pretty great return on their monthly PR retainer investment. Of course, this is only directional, but it’s a start at showing the direct business value of the work we’re doing. Let’s dig into how you get these numbers. Here’s an example of one of the articles in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The anchor text you see here in blue was linked directly to the company’s contact form. We specifically chose to use “broke ground last year” as our anchor copy because we knew people would be searching for plants in Ohio that had recently broken ground if they were looking for a job in manufacturing. And, because our objective was driving job applicants, that’s who we wanted to attract. Here’s the form that the site linked to.

UGN Form

As you can see it’s pretty simple and doesn’t ask for a ton of information. It just acts as a conduit for communicating with the company from their website. Submitting this form is the call-to-action.

A SaaS Example

As you start placing contributed content and seeding it with your trackable links to your website, you can begin to measure results. This example is data from a different client. I have removed incriminating information, so you can see an example of real results without breaking their confidentiality. In the tracker, we log:

  • The date of the article
  • The title
  • The publication name
  • Their domain authority 
  • How many visitors the piece sent to the website
  • How many pages they viewed per session
  • The amount of time they spent on the website.

You can track this data manually in a simple spreadsheet, or you can move into a more sophisticated automated tool. We like DashMetrics, Domo, Geckoboard, or Raven SEO tools.

Steps to Measure Results from Analytics

To get the data you need to populate this tracker, log into Google analytics.

Referral Traffic

Choose the desired date range at the top of the page— I chose Jan 1, 2014-December 31, 2014 because that’s when we started working with the SaaS client above. Then click on Acquisition in the left-hand navigation to expand that menu, then on All Traffic, and then on Referrals. This will bring up a search bar. In this search bar, input each of the domain names for the publications where you’ve placed articles and search for them.

Domain Name

For example, for the Chicago Daily Herald piece we placed, I’m going to type in “dailyherald” and hit the search icon to return the data on the referrals from that domain. It’s important to make sure to use the media outlet’s URL and not their name. Google Analytics tracks the referring URLs and not the names of the websites that refer traffic to you.

Make Better Recommendations

When I hit return on my dailyherald search, here’s what I see.

Search by Media Outlet

In 2014, the Daily Herald website sent this website three visitors, all of them new users, but the bounce rate was 100 percent. That means that every one of the visitors came to the site, didn’t find what they were looking for or didn’t find the content interesting enough, and left without viewing any other pages on the website. In this case, it’s not a good return-on-investment. The lesson here is, although the client was interested in local publications, and that’s where we worked to get placements, those stories—here and with Crains and the NBC Chicago affiliate—did not generate website visitors. These placements might make the client feel good when their friends and family excitedly tell them they saw the mention, but it’s not doing anything for them—it’s not driving business results. That means it’s time to consider revising this strategy. With the data in front of us, it’s easy to recommend focusing on KMWorld, VentureBeat, Forbes, CMSwire, and TechCrunch. In this example, we have the publication name, the number of visitors, the number of conversions, and the revenue generated by those conversions.

Back into the Conversion, if Need Be

For this client, their conversion rate is 1.35 percent. Using Forbes as the example, we take the number of visitors, 209, multiplied by 1.35 percent, which would give us three as our number of conversions. Next, we take the number of conversions, three, multiplied by the typical revenue per conversion, which is about $21.39, which gives us revenue of $64.18 for that Fortune placement. TechCrunch sent more than 10,000 visitors to the site and accounts for about half of all the revenue generated for the year from these placements. That context makes it pretty easy to decide where to double-up your efforts. It also gives you the ability to show that your efforts are directly responsible for generating revenue—it’s not just an expense. While $7,000 in revenue doesn’t pay for all the time you spent on communications for the year, it’s better than $0, and it gives you a starting point to measure results. Many tech vendors call this PR attribution—check out what both AirPR and TrendKite are doing around this. It’s time to gain proper credit where it is due.

PR Metrics Are Not Math

But gaining proper credit where it is due is always a sticky one. After all, it does require the use of numbers, and communicators do not like them.

When I speak to groups of communicators, one of my favorite things to ask is:

How many of you went into PR because you hate math?

Inevitably, 95 percent of the room raises their hands.

I know. I know. Math stinks.

But PR metrics are not math.

Think about it as data.

And you can use data to tell a story.

You’re already a great storyteller. Now you can use numbers to help you tell a results-driven story.

The only way the PESO model can give PR pros a seat at the executive table is to measure, measure, measure.

Even though we tend to be right-brainers who don’t like numbers, there is absolutely no running away from PR metrics.

Without measuring your PESO activities’ effectiveness, you don’t know where to focus.

  • Which topics are truly engaging your audience?
  • Which channels drive the most traffic?
  • What publications are bombing with our audience?

These are all answers only data can give you.

If you want PR to be seen as a relevant, valuable partner in driving business results—instead of a fluffy nice-to-have budget expense item, you have to get over that.

Sharing business results—such as how many leads your PR programs drove—increases the esteem your colleagues have for the work you do.

In time, you may even come to find it to be invigorating and inspiring to be able to see how that work is driving business results.

Get Over Analysis Paralysis

Once you have the PESO model working well for you and driving your content and other activities, it’s time to determine the PR metrics that will help you be certain it’s working.

For each of the four media types, there are different PR metrics to track.

Here’s a starting point for your measurement activities.

Paid Media

Paid media has traditionally been left to the advertising guys, but today, communicators have an opportunity to get really good at it. Should you start learning how to write jingles and shoot commercials? Absolutely not. Leave that to the professionals. What you should consider is how to use paid media to drive leads and conversions. Think about measuring the following four PR metrics:

  • Landing pages and A/B testing. Software can help in creating landing pages and guiding you through A/B testing. It can attach to your content management system (or, in some cases, it becomes your CMS), and it provides data and recommendations based on the people who are already visiting your site. It will recommend content (see owned media below for more details) for you to put behind a landing page. That landing page will then collect email addresses from the people who want your content. Those people become warm leads, which can be nurtured and eventually turned into customers. Track them through the buying process and measure the effectiveness of your ability to get them to buy.
  • Social media marketing ad conversions. Using data from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and Google AdWords, you can easily drive new leads to your website and track the PR measurement from it. Facebook, hands down, is one of the best ways to convert from social media. Are people clicking on your ad? What are they doing once they’re on your site? You want to see a correlation between people clicking and people buying, which should be included in your PR tracking.
  • Email database. There is almost nothing better for lead generation, nurturing, and conversion than email marketing. I’m not talking about your monthly newsletter that is distributed and talks about your latest and greatest products or projects. That’s not effective. People don’t care about you. They want to know what you can do for them. If you change your perspective on email marketing and offer content that puts your prospect in the driver’s seat, you’ll find it far more effective. When you set up your PR tracking dashboard, you not only want to see an increase in the number of email addresses in your database, you want to see an increase in the number of people who click on links in your emails. Set up your PR measurement program to include unique URLs so you can track what’s the most effective.
  • Leads and conversions. With Google Analytics, and a CRM, it’s incredibly easy today to know if the public relations campaigns are working. For instance, with analytics and your typical sales conversion percentage, you should be able to figure out how many people you need to bring into your website every day. You can track that through a consistently updated blog, a resources library, insights, a media room, or even frequently asked questions that are dynamic. The middle of the funnel could include some of the things that are behind your landing pages. These include things such as white papers and case studies. Move then to scheduling a demo or a sales call. You should be able to figure out how many leads at the top of the funnel will correlate a conversion at the bottom.

PR Metrics in Earned Media

Earned media got its name because you garner results from the relationships you earn—with influencers, with journalists and with bloggers. Historically, earned media has been the most credible because the stories, recommendations and referrals come from third parties (though word-of-mouth from friends and friends of friends—see shared media below—is now in the leadership position). To measure the effectiveness of your earned media program, consider the following three PR metrics:

  • Web performance. Orbit Media Studio conducted a survey among 1,300 bloggers and found that nearly half either never or only occasionally review their analytics. But there’s so much data in that free tool! Get it. Play with it. Understand it. And create your PR measurement. Pay attention to how much new traffic a specific story, blog post, tweet or Facebook mention brings you. Is it qualified traffic? Do they visit other pages? Is the bounce rate low? Do they spend some significant time on your site? All these things will tell you how valuable that third-party influencer is to your campaign. And will help you with scoring in the future.
  • New audiences. At the top of the marketing funnel are the audiences and loyal fans—the people who are becoming aware of the brand via all of its means of communication. These audiences come from the markets a brand can serve. It’s the job of PR and advertising to build those audiences and to identify and cultivate the loyal fans of your brand. You can track your new audiences through the number of unique visitors to your website and quantify their value. Once your audience value is quantified, you can compute the ROI of your PR in real dollars and cents.
  • Media, blogger and influencer scoring. Consider this…does the Puxatoomie News Herald have as high a score as the New York Times? Does an influencer with 10,000 followers have the same score as someone with 1,000 followers? It could very well be that the person with 1,000 followers can incentivize purchase with 10 percent of his followers, while the person with 10,000 followers can incentivize purchase with only one percent. When you set up your PR campaign to focus on the third-party influencers who truly help your business, you don’t get caught up in the ego-driven results. Focus on the Puxatoomie News Herald if they bring you better results on the New York Times. Not as many people read the former, but this is about sales, not about your mom seeing your name in the paper.

PR Metrics in Shared Media

There’s almost nothing that drives me crazier than PR campaigns that tout their increases in social media followers as “results.” Yes, you have to track those things because sharp declines—or a trend of decreasing followers—will tell you something is wrong. But an increase, week-after-week, do not results make. The following three PR metrics, which you should measure, do:

  • Social media advertising. Think particularly about Facebook and LinkedIn advertising. Both have the potential to drive both leads and conversions. While we’ve had considerably better results from Facebook, LinkedIn also is effective. It’s more expensive and it doesn’t reach as wide an audience, but if you’re in a service or B2B organization, it could be the right tool for you. Social media advertising should drive new email subscribers, which generates qualified leads and converts them to sales. Every industry has different PR metrics, when it comes to cost per lead and percentage conversion, but you should aim for less than $1.00 per lead and one to three percent conversion.
  • Rating system. Just like you can score your earned media, you can do the same for your social media updates and shares. Assign a point system to your efforts. For instance, likes are one point, comments are five points, and shares are 10 points. Then you can assigns points to each social network. On Twitter, you can use five points for a tweet and 10 points for a retweet. The point here is that you very quickly learn which campaigns worked really well and which fell flat on their face.
  • Unique stuff. By “stuff” I mean unique URLs, landing pages, coupons, discount codes or even telephone numbers. The only place these should be used is in social media. You can have different ones for the other media types to measure their effectiveness in a larger campaign. This allows you to easily point to the success of one tactic or marketing platform. In Google Analytics, track how many people are using your unique stuff assigned to your shared media updates.

PR Metrics in Owned Media

The beauty of owned media—content that lives on something you own, such as your website or blog—is it completely integrates with the other three media types. You can’t have owned media without paid media (increased reach), earned media (increased awareness), and shared media (increased distribution). So think about measuring these PR metrics:

  • The vanities. Yes, you should pay attention to unique visitors, time spent on the site, and bounce rate. Those things, such as an increase (or decrease) in social media followers, indicate success or failure. But these are the tip of the iceberg.
  • Email marketing. If you have an organized owned media program, you likely are distributing through email marketing. When you integrate your content with this paid media tactic, you can track things such as downloads and shares. Do people download the content? Do they read or watch or listen to it once it’s been downloaded? Is it so good they can’t help but share it with their communities? Are they bringing you new website visitors—which correlate to new leads—because you’ve provided so much value?
  • Social media shares. As much as I really, really hate to admit it, social media shares matter. Ever been to a site where you’ve read a piece of content, thought it brilliant, and then noticed there are no social shares? Your immediate thought is not, “Oh this content must be crap” (though that doesn’t enter your mind). Your immediate thought is, “What’s wrong with me that I thought this so brilliant?” Social shares matter because they provide social proof.
  • Community. There is lots and lots and lots of debate about what a community can do, both for your vanity metrics and your social shares. Having built a community and replicating that same success for clients, I can tell you—hands down—an engaged community drives sales. Track the effectiveness of your community through sales, speaking engagement recommendations, client referrals, or paid webinar attendees. Build your community! In some cases, it will integrate with your influencer relations and brand ambassadors.
  • Sales. Any public relations campaign that does not include sales as a metric is doing it wrong. Start at the top with things such as website traffic and social media referrals. Move to the middle with attribution and lead generation. Then move to the bottom with conversions and sales. The ultimate goal is cold, hard cash and your PR campaign can get you there.

Get really good at measuring and analyzing these PR metrics. As you do, you’ll find that you can determine what effect your PR campaigns are having on sales. Then tweak them to improve your results.

What to Include in Your PR Metrics Dashboard

If you were to have a short list of the things to measure, it would include:

  • Domain authority
  • Search results
  • Attribution
  • Database growth
  • Qualified leads
  • Sales conversions

There are, of course, other things you can measure and include in your PR metrics dashboard. But these are the most important because they show how the work you are doing is driving actual revenue.

Domain Authority

Now that you have an idea of what to measure, and how it works in theory, let's dig into each metric. Your website’s domain authority is updated by Moz once or twice per month. Though it’s not the end all, be all for measurement, it does give you a number from which to work each month. For instance, we have a client whose domain authority was 24 when we started working with them three months ago. Today, that number has climbed to 27. Though it’s only three points in three months, the number is going in the right direction. And it’s all because of content that we’ve created and promoted on their site. If you are diligent and consistent about publishing content, you can expect to see a slow but steady increase each month. It’s important to note you’ll see this number increase a lot more quickly when you are just starting out. After you move to a domain authority of about 40, you’ll begin to see slower growth. On average, you can expect about six points per year—or half a point every month. One thing to note: you may increase your domain authority pretty consistently, only to find it drop several points overnight. Do not freak out! Typically that means Google has changed its algorithm and everyone’s authority number dropped. Before you freak out, read the article linked above to help.

Search Results

How many results do you have on page one of Google results for your primary keywords? Do you have a list of primary keywords? If not, start there. Talk with your SEO team and see what they’re tracking. If you do not have an SEO team, you’ll need to do the work to figure out what your priority keywords are. (The keyword research article linked at the beginning of this article will help.) For instance, for us, they are things such as:

  • PR metrics
  • PESO model
  • Communications firm
  • PR professional development

We use Moz to track where they are, and how much they move from month-to-month. If you don’t have a tool such as Moz, you can easily use a spreadsheet. Open an incognito window for searching in Google. To do so, you must use the Google Chrome browser, go to File in the navigation and choose “new incognito window” from the dropdown. Then do a search for your keyword and see where it falls in results. Is it on the first page or do you have to dig further? Write down where it is in search results and use that change (hopefully it’s an increase every month) on your PR metrics dashboard. Opening an incognito window allows you to see search results that are not affected by your personal search history and contact lists. That way, you have a more accurate reflection of how a prospective customer might or might not see you in results.

Attribution

Attribution means your efforts can take credit for that new customer, donor, or member. You want to be able to attribute your PR programs to hard, cold cash. Right? Right. These are the questions you should be able to answer:

  • How many of your website visitors are coming in from the contributed content you’re placing?
  • Which websites are sending you the most traffic?
  • Are any sites not sending traffic?

The easiest way to do this is to include a link to something valuable (not your home page) on your website from your media relations efforts. It’s a combination of earned and owned media—and it has to work together. If, however, you are unable or not willing to ask for a link in your media relations efforts, you can buy TrendKite or AirPR to help you. Both tools provide attribution based on where a person goes after they read an article about you. If they go to Facebook, then LinkedIn, and finally your site, these tools will tell you that. Use this data to refine your media relations efforts over time.

Database Growth

Your organization’s email list is the cornerstone of ongoing sales. If owned media is doing its job, it should be generating a steady stream of additional email addresses. If you are getting clickthroughs to your site, but those visitors aren’t signing up for your email list or providing an email address in exchange for a lead magnet, it’s time to rethink your target media list. No matter how popular the media outlet, if it’s not driving qualified traffic to your site, it’s not a good fit. If you link to a landing page with an email collection form, or have an email subscription signup as the call-to-action in your PR content, you can track how many new email addresses were added to your list as a result of your efforts. The point here is to increase the number of email addresses AND the number of click-throughs from those people. It doesn’t help if you add emails, but those people never do anything. You want them engaged. To track this over time, it’s helpful to use a unique URL with your links, so you can obtain an aggregate number through Google Analytics.

Number of Qualified Leads

Getting people to join your email list is important. But many of the people on your list will never purchase anything from you. They’ll never become clients. That’s totally normal. But those would be considered unqualified leads. Your qualified leads are those who actually enter your sales funnel as prospective clients. How many people became prospective customers after interacting with your content? Track all the media outlets with whom you are placing content, the resulting traffic to your website from those placements, and the conversion of those visitors to potential customers. The only way to do this is to use attribution and a customer relationship management tool. If your organization does not have a CRM, this part will be very difficult for you to do.

Sales Conversions

The ultimate metric to track is sales. How many sales came about as a result of our communications efforts? It’s easy to get discouraged by seeing conversion rates in the single digits. But here’s the thing—email marketing is considered to be one of the most effective marketing tactics, and a three percent conversion rate for an email is very good. So don’t be discouraged by the actual number. Pay attention, instead, to the trends—does it increase every month? Are you heading in the right direction? Ideally you will be able to set up a report to do this in your marketing automation tool or customer relationship management software.

Use Google Analytics

To track these metrics, you want to spend quality time with Google Analytics. With Google Analytics, you can identify:

  • Bounce rate. Are you attracting the right people to your site with your content? Or are they coming for the piece of content they saw linked to from somewhere then retreating never to be seen again?
  • Goal completion. Set your email subscription thank you page, your contact us form, and other lead-submission pages as goals and you can track your conversion rates.
  • Keywords leading to your content. Although you no longer get the depth of search data from Google Analytics, you can with Google Webmaster Tools. This will also help you with content creation.
  • Pages per session. Are your visitors exploring your site? If you’re attracting qualified traffic, and have created compelling content for that audience, they’ll be staying to read more on your site.
  • Referrals. Where are your new visitors coming from? Which media outlets send you the most relevant prospects?

You can choose any format you’d like to track your progress against these PR metrics. I typically rely on Moz, Google Analytics, and graphics from our communications stack. And there you have it! While it took four weeks to drill completely into the metrics, we did so because this is the most important part of communications planning and execution. Without a complete understanding of your metrics, how to read data, and a consistent analysis of where you stand, you won’t ever earn the coveted seat at the table. Do what we’ve outlined here, though, and you’ll not only be sitting at the table, you’ll be commanding control.