Public relations has long been a core tactic for building brand awareness and thought leadership. Yet there remains a persistent belief that because awareness is intangible, its impact is unmeasurable. As marketing teams continue to drive toward increasingly sophisticated methods for measuring business impact, it is critical that the tools and approaches to measuring PR adapt accordingly. In particular, today’s savvy practitioners are implementing new ways to measure PR and its ability to increase website traffic, establish domain authority, drive engagement and improve search results.

Here are five ways to measure a successful PR program. While not an exhaustive list, the following are five common elements that can be used independently or combined to assess the success – and ideally impact – of a PR program.

You can find more information about PR measurement in our recent eBook, which dives into the marketing funnel, personas, shares examples of tools, metrics and trackers, and more.

Coverage and Output

This is the classic measurement model. Many organizations rely on tracking coverage and counting clips (via tools like Meltwater, Cision, Google, etc.) combined with metrics like circulation, sentiment and perhaps share of voice. It can also include other basic outputs like volume of blog posts, press releases, social posts, award or speaking submissions, etc. This is a simple, low cost, quantitative approach to understanding the impact of PR on driving general awareness across select publications/outlets.

The positive is that it provides marketers with simple KPIs that can be reported up the management chain. The downside is that it lacks meaningful insight into the impact this awareness has on business objectives. We see clients most often using this basic approach when measuring programs for thought leadership, media relations, awards and speaking.

Impact Scoring

Some organizations prefer a more detailed analysis of media coverage to better assess the quality – and hence the impact – of coverage. Impact Scoring is a combined metric that incorporates multiple attributes of each piece of coverage, weighted by importance to the client. Those elements could include tracking of message pick up, article dominance, quote inclusion and more.

To do this effectively, teams should correlate coverage with domain or page authority (essentially, how important a domain/page is to your target audience) available through sources like Moz. Impact Scoring can be tracked over time in a matrix to show trends and progress against key goals. It also provides companies with a highly detailed format to measure traditional changes in coverage quality (for example, shift from negative to positive sentiment), as well as more modern assessments such as message pull-through, authority and more. It can be an effective way to look at the quality of the coverage produced, and to see if your PR team is effective in conveying key messages and managing the process.

As Impact Scoring is focused entirely on media coverage, most clients use this option to measure contributed article campaigns, media relations or news announcements, proactive pitching, etc.

Site Traffic

Many marketers want to measure more than just basic awareness, and seek to correlate PR’s impact to site traffic (and, when possible, leads). The first step in understanding the relationship between PR and site traffic is ideally to define a value list of domains (based on domain and page authority from sources like Moz, etc.) for the simple reason that not all site traffic is equal; while a content farm could provide a substantial volume of low-value traffic, you ideally want to direct your PR efforts at outlets that matter to your desired audience.

Teams then measure inbound site traffic from backlinks used in traditional PR activities (i.e., articles, awards, and press releases). Using follow-links and UTM codes for attribution to PR, a team can also measure and even create Google Analytics goals that tie to and track conversions (like leads, events, revenue, email subs, form fills, etc.). Overall, this allows the team to a) rank the value of online sources by domain and page authority, b) measure coverage impact on website traffic, c) evaluate the ability of outlet site traffic to impact lead generation, and d) show more tangible PR cost-to-value (i.e., traffic or leads).

Voxus clients use this approach to measure the engagement of thought leadership articles, general coverage success, industry awards, news or product launches, blog campaigns, social media and more.

Keyword Ownership and SEO

PR can have a tremendous impact on search, and this is obviously something that organizations can track. Start with an SEO audit (perhaps via Google Analytics tools, SEMRush, etc.) to establish a relevant measurement baseline, and include a defined and prioritized list of valued keywords and phrases. PR teams then work to incorporate these keywords/phrases into earned and owned media (and include other search best practices like inserting do-follow links) as well as other search-related tactics.

For example, we often create non-duplicate content (such as an accompanying blog post with 7-12 keyword references), develop keyword-heavy thought leadership assets, or craft content for pillar landing pages. Teams should then measure the impact of activities against keyword movement in organic search, as well as tracking increases in site traffic driven by search. We most typically see keyword and SEO tracking across clients that have programs for contributed articles, content marketing, blogs and social media.

Content Engagement

If you include content and social under your broader PR umbrella (we do), you have some unique measurement opportunities. You can track the primary awareness and education that comes from social and content marketing initiatives. You can also use these initiatives to amplify (and measure) success in more traditional PR endeavors, such as reposting thought leadership, product reviews, etc.

While measuring social and content is a topic unto itself, in most cases, the key metric is engagement. Teams often evaluate and test success for the call-to-action (for example in blogs or landing pages) using UTM codes and building campaigns in Google Analytics (or some other tools). Other typical conversion metrics include form fills, downloads, and social analytics such as likes, shares, views, comments, etc.

Measuring engagement allows organizations to assess both audience targeting and content value, as well as better understand a prospect’s journey from lead to client. As importantly, it allows PR teams to apply these readily “measurable” engagements to assess audience interest in more traditional PR elements. Clients use content engagement metrics most often around content marketing campaigns, social media and email marketing programs, paid media placements and more.

For more information on PR measurement, including “7 Steps to Measurement Success,” download the Measurement That Matters eBook today.