When do you know something is working?

PR is often referred to as the ‘dark art’ of marketing. The very nature of brand awareness and reputation means they can be intrinsically difficult to measure – but not impossible.

Measurement is key to demonstrating the value of our work. But it doesn’t have to be just a list of numbers and percentage changes either. Behaviour change, awareness and perception are all key elements of why we do what we do.

Whatever it is we set out to achieve, first of all, make sure you’re measuring the right things.

Set the right goals

What is your client’s business trying to achieve? What are the company’s communication goals? What response do we want from the target audience?

Distributing a press release or achieving three pieces of coverage are means, not ends. In everything we do, we need to demonstrate the business impact. Largely this comes down to seeing a response from consumers, whether that’s them being more educated on a particular topic or buying a product.

Once you have SMART goals in place and are aligned with your brand’s business goals, examine every piece of activity through the lens of ‘does this bring me closer to those business goals’.

Finally, make sure you’re always measuring against these goals. Refer to them throughout the whole campaign process, from planning, to analysing results to developing learnings for the future.

Less can be more

This one is tricky. We’re all in PR for a reason. Many of us are avid news-junkies. And we love seeing our clients’ names in a target publication. But sometimes less coverage is more – if it wasn’t the right sort of coverage.

With every piece of media activity, really examine the audience. We’ve all known for a long time that readership numbers and AVE can – at best – be used to give an indication of eyes on content. They shouldn’t be relied upon for insights.

This is where the numbers start to let us down. But we shouldn’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. We should play to our strengths and seek out qualitative analysis instead.

Speak to your clients’ customers. Ask them what they’re reading. Ask them how they perceive your clients. Use these insights to gain greater audience insight and demonstrate how your results are targeted and valuable.

Encourage curiosity

Ask your clients questions and be curious about their role in the organisation. This is the best way to get quality insights and ensure your activity is always supporting business objectives.

It’s also a great way to stay close to your clients and understand their challenges.

Encouraging curiosity will empower people to take a critical look at what they’re doing and drive more meaningful conversations.

Fundamentally however, measurement isn’t one single exercise that you can tick off at the end of the month. It’s a sustained, strategic analysis of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for. If you can embed this layer of questioning into all planning and all activity, you’ll drive impressive results that matter to your clients.