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How to really measure public relations ROI.

February 18, 2017

I know PR is valuable, I know that as an industry we have to prove that value, and I understand that the path of least resistance might be to take the easy way out. But I also know this: The PR industry absolutely must stop relying on outdated advertising value equivalents (AVEs) and impressions to prove ROI.

I recently attended an industry awards dinner and was shocked to see a room full of public relations practitioners celebrating work (outstanding work as it was) based on AVEs, impressions and even Facebook likes! Elsewhere, a major media monitor database provider just recently published an ebook by Robert Wynn touting the value of AVEs. Oof.

After being in the industry for over 15 years, I understand the challenge we are up against to prove our value with the c-suite and get a piece of the marketing budget. It’s a constant struggle, but let me tell you, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by continuing to perpetuate AVEs and impressions as solid measurement standards. The change has to start with us – just because our clients or bosses like AVEs, doesn’t mean we have to continue to use them. Find other metrics!

But Megan you say, PR is so hard to measure. We need something to show that we’re moving the needle. I agree, but continuing to use these metrics is just plain laziness. These are vanity metrics. Measuring what matters takes a little work, but it CAN be done.

So what metrics are worth measuring? It all depends on your business goals. For starters, make sure your goals are SMART. You may have heard of this principle before, but it bears repeating as you think about what you want to accomplish with your PR efforts. SMART goals are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

Once you’ve set goals that make sense with your overall business plan, start thinking about what you’ll measure.

Evaluating metrics

Even though we’re talking about PR here, measurement really should be holistic. You’ll need to work with others to ensure your metrics make sense with overall business plans, and you should also be prepared to work closely with other teams to gain access to the data you need (Google Analytics can help here, too). So what metrics will you need to consider? Here are some ideas:


Of course, not all coverage is created equal. Put together your own PR scorecard to gauge it, and no matter what you ultimately decide to measure, get your leadership team on board beforehand.

And then … repeat after me. “I will not use AVEs, impressions or likes to measure success.”

Fight the fight and report on metrics that matter.

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