Digital Marketing, Social Media Measurement, Social Media Strategy, PR 20, Social Media Marketing, Social Media ROI

A New Formula for Measuring PR Success

public-relations-measurement-2Isn’t there a better way to measure PR effectiveness?

Experienced digital marketers know that “conversion rate” is the holy grail of online success metrics. Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors to a Web site that accomplish an objective. If 100 people visit your Web site, and 7 of them fill out your lead form, your conversion rate is 7%. Conversion rate is so integral to digital marketing it forms the basis for the name of this blog, and my accompanying consulting practice.

In addition to being a valuable signpost on the way to true ROI calculation, conversion rate has the advantage of measuring outcome, not volume. As Avinash Kaushik discusses frequently on his uber-useful Web analytics blog, the smart money is on measuring and analyzing ratios.

Why is Public Relations Exempt from Ratios?

But yet, public relations has never had ratios in its collection of success metrics. It’s always about volume. How much coverage did you get? What’s the paid media equivalency of that coverage (which is the grand champion of pointless, extrapolated metrics), how many reporters did you talk to? etc. etc. etc.

It’s not surprising that both old school public relations and inexperienced Web site managers use the term “hits” (which Jim Sterne snarkily says is an acronym for “How Idiots Track Success.”)

Why can’t we apply conversion rate to public relations? Instead of measuring how many people we’ve talked to, let’s track the results of those conversations. If you have conversations with 20 journalists and bloggers, and 6 of them write about your client, your conversion rate would be 30%.

If you believe that the future (present?) of public relations is hyper-targeted communication and personal relationships with writers that are created before you need their help – and continue long after – isn’t conversion rate a better gauge of the PR practitioner’s expertise? It’s essentially their batting average – how often they can turn relationships into results.

A conversion rate methodology would put the final stake in the heart of the batch and blast press release era, which emphasizes building media lists, not media relationships.

Let’s use math to put the relationships back in public relations. Who’s with me?

(Photo by lrargerich)