Re-thinking how to measure PR success

September marks AMEC’s Measurement Month, one of my favorite industry events that by principle is to bring global attention to the value and importance of PR measurement.

Even in today’s digital age with cross-device technologies, online-offline attribution and an overall industry emphasis on personalized marketing, PR measurement and the technology that supports it continues to lag behind the trends in adtech & martech. I often I ask myself, “Why is this the case?” It’s not the technology, it’s not the available data, and it’s usually not the clients…is it us? Is it the PR practitioners? Could it be our fault why client after client cannot find the answer to how PR supports the success of their business and why most of us can’t tell them either?!

And that’s it. That’s the question PR, historically, does not answer: “How are our PR and communications efforts, impacting our client’s business?” Could you imagine spending $30,000 a month on a Facebook advertising campaign and not being able to explain to your client how it is impacting their business? Didn’t think so. Essentially, people have been doing this in PR for years.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know the technology really did not used to be there pre-internet era, that it was nearly impossible to measure how reading an article in a tangible Wall Street Journal newspaper led to more awareness or lead generation. But we do not have this excuse anymore.

So how do we as PR practitioners, come together to address this problem and solve it? We have to adjust how we think about the success of a PR program. Adjust from emphasizing the measurement of outputs (PR efforts) to emphasizing how PR impacts the business. As well as gaining access to a client’s Google Analytics and any other customer data they are willing to share.


Traditionally, PR “measures” success by the number of articles or “hits”, by the quality of media outlets, by number of executive quotes, the number of secured interviews, the number of mentions, share of voice, and how could I forget the less than meaningful “impressions.”

These are all outputs, high-level awareness metrics, and what I like to call vanity metrics which in isolation tells the client nothing meaningful to their measurable business objectives. How many times have you heard this discussion: “Hey Mrs. Client, we got you this amazing feature in Forbes that garnered 3 Million impressions, was syndicated to 7 other outlets, and had 450 Twitter mentions!” And the client comes back and says, “OK, great! But, how does that impact my business? How can I explain that to my CMO, CEO and BOD in terms of ROI?” Which PR practitioners usually then respond with some sort of muttering. The client then either shrugs and accepts this false reality or leaves to find a new partner.


In order to figure out how your PR/communications efforts are impacting a client’s business, you need to ask yourself (and even the client) the following questions:

  • What does the client do? What does their service or product offer fundamentally?
  • Why are they coming to us? What do they need PR?
  • What are the client’s key business objectives?
  • What are the client’s key marketing & communications objectives?
  • What results does the client want or expect to see?
  • Are the above objectives SMART? (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-focused, and Time-bound)

The impact of efforts on objectives should flow from one to another with ease and specificity: Business objectives to marketing objectives to PR/communications objectives, in which our efforts are tied directly to those PR/communications objectives. Having these discussions with your clients upfront will make you seem not only better informed, but will demonstrate your client that you are that much more responsible for the success of their business.

What we do (PR, Paid Media, Owned Social Media, Influencer Marketing, etc) does provide a measurable impact a client’s business. We must identify these areas of impact (awareness, lead generation, e-commerce, web traffic, whitepaper downloads, app downloads, etc.) by using the AMEC Valid Metrics Framework as a template, and measure them to show how we as PR practitioners are an integral part of the client’s business.

Do you have any thoughts on how we can improve the quality of PR & communications measurement? What roadblocks have you had to face in PR measurement implementation? Please share in the comment section below! Or tweet us at sparkpr.

About the Author


Alex Romero-Wilson is currently a Senior Analyst at Spark, a data-driven integrated communications agency that focuses on the technology and consumer markets. He was previously a Senior Analyst at Eastwick, a Social and Digital Strategy Intern at H3O Communications, and a Jr. Social Media Analyst at the award winning communications agency, WCG.

Alex’s experience of working in “startup like analytical departments” has led to his current passion of building top-tier marketing/communications measurement and analytical departments, teams and processes. Alex leads with the mantra that we ultimately “measure to inform strategy”. He is also reshaping how we think about the “R” in ROI — instead of “return”, focus on the “results” of your investment.