Imagine that your company, a consumer products brand, has had two media placements in the past month. In the first, a company executive was quoted once in a national publication about a larger industry trend, couched between interviews with other experts in the field. In the second, your company’s product was thoroughly reviewed by a local columnist who also interviewed a company representative about their impact on the community. Which placement is more valuable?
While the first example certainly has a higher reach by circulation and potential website views, the company’s message is at risk of being lost amidst a third-party narrative. In the case of the second, the reach is much smaller, but your brand messages dominate the story’s narrative.
In short, the answer depends on your goals. It has always been Bohlsen Group’s philosophy to tailor our tactics to meet a client’s specific goals, and with our revamped Media Relations Measurement Program, we work with clients from the onset to define quantifiable, targeted goals and realistic benchmarks for success.
First, if you aren’t measuring your public relations efforts, then you should be. The value of determining ROI and case-making back to your C-suite, funders, and other stakeholders, is invaluable. PR is much more than emotion and storytelling— it can be measured in terms of outcomes and output. So, what do we measure and what should you value in terms of media coverage?
Reach looks at potential cumulative impressions, a combined metric of a print publication’s circulation, estimated audience for broadcast, or unique monthly visitors to a website or blog. However, reach should also be measured by whether the message met your target audience and target media outlet.
Beyond reach, our team analyzes each placement to determine whether a brand’s key messages saturated the media story.
Finally, we look at the digital footprint of each placement to determine added value online. For example, a print or broadcast story has a much longer “shelf life” when also posted online, as it has the potential to be searchable and be shared on social media, leading to a higher reach than the more limited initial audience.
Value vs. Vanity Metrics
You might notice one metric that is missing from this list—Ad Equivalency Value. This controversial metric was used for a long time in the PR industry and sought to quantify what it would have cost you to buy an ad for the same amount of space as your placement, multiplied to reflect the higher value of earned media. Inconsistent multipliers have led to wild inconsistencies between agency calculations, and the rise of digital advertising has made these very difficult to estimate with accuracy.
While some still use this, we’ve identified it as a “vanity” metric—one that looks good on paper but isn’t truly accurate or useful in crafting a sustainable strategy. Due to its quantitative nature, this metric has become a sort of crutch in determining the efficacy of media relations efforts. However, we want to educate clients on their placements’ value in both anecdotal and numerical perspectives.
According to the Barcelona Principles 2.0, a best practice guide for public relations measurement updated in 2015, both qualitative and quantitative measurement are not only possible, but critical. You can’t focus on one while ignoring the other.
by Lauren Cascio