How to Measure PR: Use These ToolsI love it when big conferences are held in Chicago because I get to see all of my friends without having to get on a plane…and I get to sleep in my own bed.

This past weekend was SOBCon, the mastermind of Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker St. Marie, and lots of friends – old and new – were here to participate.

On Saturday night, I met some friends for dinner at Michael Jordan’s new restaurant (which, even for a vegetarian, was super yummy and the service was superb) and we sat down to talk about the realness (or lack thereof) of social media “experts,” the marketing industry as a whole, and whether or not PR firms are really worth their salt.

You see, I am told many times, when I tell a new acquaintance what I do for a living, that the person has worked with PR firms in the past and they haven’t gotten their money’s worth.

They’ll say, “Oh yeah. I know it’s hard to measure PR” and they’ll roll their eyes.

I mean, I hear this a lot. I usually just shake my head and say something such as, “Yeah, I hear that a lot” and the conversation moves on.

Clients Want Results

But I think it’s worth discussing here because, a few days ago, Abbie Fink sent me an article titled, “Your startup’s PR strategy might be crusty and outdated.”

In it, the author – John Hall, the CEO of Digital Talent Agents – wrote:

In the past, public relations required a client to pay a large retainer in order to be mentioned in a sidebar or get quick features published, promoting a service or product. Today, PR is online, and it includes a combination of content marketing, search engine optimization, and thought leadership. Times are changing, and there are some things you should take into consideration when you’re making decisions about your startup’s PR.

People want to see results

In the past, PR companies weren’t held to meeting specific client expectations. They could always hide behind saying, “How do you measure credibility and authority?” Clients consistently felt screwed over by PR companies because they were paying a sizable retainer without any way to gauge the results.

But this isn’t just for a startup’s PR. This is for any PR firm working with a client.

Measure PR

We have to measure PR results to business goals.

The article goes on to say you can measure your efforts with tools such as  Google analytics,DoubleClick Ad PlannerWhoReTweetedMe, and Klout, but I’d take it one step further.

Yes, Google analytics is a starting point, but that’s all it is. (I’m not sure the other tools he mentions do anything more than “measure” brand awareness…and don’t really help the case.)

From there, you have to combine the data you get in there with a client’s customer relationship management software, their email marketing software, and their ecommerce software. Without access to all of those things, you are only scratching the surface.

An Example

Let me give you an example.

We have a client who uses Hubspot and Mailchimp for lead generation and email, respectively.

They have a pretty robust content program that includes monthly webinars at the top of the funnel, white papers and eBooks at the middle of the funnel, and a free trial at the bottom of the funnel.

Our goal, of course, is to use content to get people into the free trial. From there, they know exactly how far through the trial a person has to go before they become a customer and their email marketing helps motivate them to that level.

We measure PR in a few ways:

  • Organic search increases
  • Unique visitors to the website
  • Unique visitors to the blog
  • Top of the funnel leads
  • Free trial landing page visits
  • Free trial users
  • Trials converted to customers
  • Monthly recurring revenue (subscription-based)
  • New revenue

All of this data can be found by combining analytics, Hubspot, and Mailchimp into a spreadsheet we review weekly. We do not track Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube viewers, or Klout scores.

These are both soft and hard metrics, but they lead to the ultimate goal: More customers.

In this example, we know exactly how many people we need to get to the free trial landing page – through content – in order to get them to take it and then what kinds of content – through email – we need to send them so they’ll convert to a customer.

It becomes science and math, combined with art, and it works really, really well.

Become a Partner

What this does is creates an opportunity for us to be partners with our clients. They trust us to not only give us access to their data, but also to help them achieve their goals.

And it also holds us completely accountable to the results that really matter to a business leader, owner, or entrepreneur.

We know every week whether or not something is working and can make tweaks or change paths, if necessary. We also are testing a pay-for-performance/retainer hybrid model with this particular client. I’ll let you know by year’s end how it worked.

I agree with John Hall clients want results, but the way we measure them go a step further than he took it in his article.