November 15, 2017

PR Measurement: 8 Ways to Show Impact

How do you know if your communications campaign has been successful? The abundance of data creates a dizzying array of options for today's public relations professional. We asked Katie Delahaye Paine, a recognized pioneer in measurement (also known as the Measurement Queen), for her best tips on how to show real impact. Here's what she shared.

Why has big data and measurement become so important in public relations?

Because the budgets for PR have grown, the notion that PR has to account for its spending is now a high priority, especially for public companies that need to comply with Sarbanes Oxley rules. In addition, all the various corporate scandals have made boards far more aware of the role that PR plays in maintaining corporate reputation. As a result, boards and senior management are all demanding accountability from Corporate Communications, and specifically their PR agencies.

What are your best tips for measuring PR impact?

  • Figure out how you contribute to the bottom line – that doesn’t mean direct attribution, but it does mean agreeing on an acceptable proxy for business impact
  • Collect the data that helps you calculate that metric 
  • ONLY report data that shows contribution to the bottom line and throw out the rest. That means likes, impressions, clip counts, press releases sent or received, clicks and views, etc. unless they directly relate to the goals
  • Make sure your data is clean and relevant
  • Sort your data from worst results to best – you learn far more from what doesn’t work that what succeeded
  • Use the data to tell a story, don’t just throw data around  
  • Deliver insight, not data
  • Don’t just tell senior leadership (or your client) what you did, share what you learned so that they can use your insight to improve

Who gave you the nickname of “Measurement Queen”?

It was at South by Southwest. Beth Kanter set up a panel called “the nonprofit ROI poetry slam.” We were all supposed to come in costume but I was coming from another conference and hadn't packed one. However, a friend had just given me a tiara and Beth gave us all measuring tapes to commemorate the event. I wove the measuring tape into the tiara and wore that. The next day there was an “all hat no cattle party” that Richard Binhammer from Dell was throwing. I wore my tiara and it was either Richard Binhammer or Scott Monty that introduced me as “the Measurement Queen.”


By Nicole Clifford