ruler in the snowA version of this post originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Do an Internet search on “measuring PR” or the “value of PR,” and you’ll find any number of blog posts and articles that purport to tell you how to do this. Unfortunately, anything that could have been useful about them usually starts and ends with the title (this post from Chris Penn is a notable exception).

The posts will tell you why AVEs suck (d’oh). They’ll tell you all about clipping services (double d’oh). They’ll talk knowingly about the positive impact that “strategic, proactive PR” can have on a business’ bottom line… but stop short of giving you anything you can actually use.

Drives me crazy!

I think the problem with these posts is that they’re trying to address a pretty nuanced subject head on (also that they are often written by people who don’t actually understand what PR is, or how to approach it strategically).

If you look at how practitioners in the real world are getting smart about measurement, you start to realize that they’re not meeting it head on. Instead, they’re taking almost a sideways approach to it.

How Analytics are the Sideways Approach to Measuring PR

Sidling up to measurement””as opposed to greeting it with scales in hand””allows us to think about why we engage in PR in the first place: that there are business problems we are trying to solve (or goals we are trying to reach) through our work. And analytics are at the heart of this approach.

Consider this recent case study (well, it’s not a case study yet, but it is recent work), which I discussed with Rebekah Iliff over at AirPR’s blog:

“We recently wrapped a project with a client in the education space; they were launching a new online offering. Registrations were the ultimate goal, and they were using campaign tracking in Google Analytics very well. What we did was to ensure the creation of tracking links to the relevant page, so that we could attribute visits and conversions from our efforts – our strategy had a mix of earned, owned and paid media – as accurately as possible.

“Based on traffic and conversion trends, we could see what worked (social and paid) and what didn’t so much (focusing on location too narrowly as opposed to niche and interest). That allowed us to pivot our strategy midway through the campaign and put more muscle behind what *was* working as opposed to what wasn’t… and ultimately reach the goal.”

This is what I mean by a sideways approach. We weren’t looking just at clips and impressions and traffic and social shares (though we also looked at all that). Of everything we were looking at, we tracked them all consistently and noted what converted most efficiently. And those data were what we used to propose a pivot in our strategy and, ultimately, end up with a happy client.

I know. You’ve heard this ad nauseam by now: get familiar with Google Analytics, blah blah blah. And you’re tired of hearing it. I know.

But the point of gettin’ jiggy with analytics isn’t to become an Analytics Ninja, or whatever they’re calling them these days. It’s to understand what is and isn’t working, adjust your strategy accordingly, and then see if you meet your goals. And while you can have several levels of goals, depending on how sophisticated your PR outreach is and how long you’ve been playing the game, ultimately you’ll be working towards supporting, and facilitating, efficient conversion.

Is 2015 your year of conversion yet?

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke