By Dana Baasiri
Public Relations has long been one of the most important tools in a company’s marketing toolkit. It helps to create awareness, boost brand reputation and generate leads. For travel and tourism brands in particular, public relations can play an all-encompassing role when it comes to capturing travelers. From helping to craft a compelling narrative, shape guest experiences and broadcast those stories to engaging audiences across a multitude of channels, there’s no doubt that PR is impactful. But how can brands truly measure the success of their PR and influencer marketing campaigns? Despite the many tools and platforms readily available, 61% of communication leaders still say they struggle to measure impact effectively.
Let’s explore how data metrics can help companies measure the success of their PR and influencer marketing efforts.
How Public Relations Metrics Have Changed Over The Years
Unlike advertising, PR did not always have a direct correlation to sales. Today, however, the evolution of the landscape has brought on a significant shift in how the success of public relations is measured. Just as marketers have become more skilled at executing PR campaigns, they have become adept at cultivating ways to evaluate their true influence beyond standard KPIs.
One metric many marketing professionals have largely relied on to measure PR campaigns has been AVE (advertising value equivalency). While this has proven to be a rather helpful metric in the past, it can’t stand alone as the sole value of measurement due to a few reasons:
- It places the value of a PR campaign on a number it has no control over — the cost of ad space. Especially with ad revenue continuing to decline.
- It does not take into account the quality of the content within earned media
- It does not consider whether the publication or outlet is aligned with the target audience
- It does not account for true engagement, be it online or elsewhere
According to the latest ICO World PR Report, 2020 was the first time that a majority of respondents said that they do not ever use AVEs. Out of those that still do, 75% use it because their clients request it.
With that said, AVE (like any other metric) cannot be used on its own as a measure of success. To get a true assessment of whether or not a brand’s public relations strategy is getting the job done, marketers must take into account several other metrics.
How To Measure PR Success
Taking a strategic approach to PR measurement can help businesses make the most of their efforts. Evaluating goals should go beyond simply tracking quantifiable metrics, but should dig deeper and look at other areas and how they tie into broader business objectives like sales, differentiation in the market, and overall positioning.
Here are some must-have KPIs to track and measure public relations efforts:
1. Brand Mentions / Media Placements: Gaining visibility by having a brand story told across channels is invaluable. Monitoring these placements effectively tracks how well a company’s public relations strategy is working. By collecting data about how often your hotel or destination receives brand mentions and placements, you can measure how successful you are in not only crafting the story, but sharing it with outlets in a timely and strategic manner, and more importantly, how well you nurture your media relationships. From hotel reviews and spotlights to being featured in roundups and listicles, social media mentions, or even in-depth executive profiles, the type of placements and brand mentions can vary but all play a significant role in the success of your strategy.
2. Overall Impressions: The reach of your PR efforts is determined by the number of people who see or hear about a story or campaign — that’s where impressions come in handy. This quantifiable metric measures how many potential travelers have been exposed to your message, including those who saw it on TV, heard about it on the radio, read about it online or in print publications, viewed it on social media, etc. Traditionally, this has been measured by multiplying the number of coverage placements by the circulation, audience, or following — but there is no guarantee that every single reader, viewer, listener, or follower has seen your placement. That’s where it helps to look at unique circulation as a more realistic approach to impressions. Additionally, it goes without saying that with the bulk of PR placements being secured on digital platforms, the lifecycle of that coverage is extended as it will likely be frequented multiple times.
3. Social Media Engagement: There’s no doubt that social media has changed the game when it comes to public relations. As the lines have been blurred between traditional PR and other forms of influence (like influencer marketing), social media engagement is increasingly becoming an integral part of measuring public relations efforts. One key factor driving this change is that storytellers — be it journalists, TV personalities, radio hosts, or Instagrammers — turn to social media to further drive the reach of their stories and content. Not to mention, when hosting them on property, there will likely be more opportunities for them to engage with your brand on social media. Tapping into those social media metrics such as likes, comments, and shares can help determine just how much audiences are engaging with travel brands and the stories being shared.
4. Web Traffic & Backlinks: One way marketers can gain insights into the success of their campaigns is by analyzing web traffic and backlinks garnered through PR efforts. By tracking web traffic and backlinks, businesses can identify their most popular content, measure their reach with specific audiences, and determine any possible correlations between PR efforts and site visits. This can include traffic or links from any major news outlets, blogs, and even social media influencers who mention your travel brand or link back to your website in their content.
5. Share of Voice (SOV): Measuring the success of a public relations campaign can be tricky, but one effective way to evaluate your effort’s reach is with “share of voice.” SOV is defined as the percentage of industry-related conversations that mention a company relative to its competitors. This often involves tracking keyword usage or other mentions in online conversations, but can also include monitoring traditional media coverage. Travel marketers can take it a step further to see if sales and leads are aligning with the brand’s SOV. For instance, if there has been a PR focus to increase SOV within a particular drive market, it would be helpful to look at how many new leads or guest bookings are coming out of that same market over time.
6. Sentiment and Quality of Coverage: Contrary to the adage “any publicity is good publicity,” a brand’s sentiment and quality of coverage matter. Sentiment gives context to a brand’s coverage and helps determine what kind of messages are being published, the types of stories being told, and as a result, what the general public consensus and perception is. Additionally, it helps marketers understand whether or not they are on the right track to hitting their goals and objectives. For instance, analyzing sentiment and the contents of coverage placed can help you determine whether or not your resort is being positioned and seen as you’d like it to be. While this is not entirely a quantifiable measure, it can be adapted into a point system or a scale that looks at several areas of each coverage placement including the headline, image, key messages conveyed, URLs used, and reader or user comments.
Measuring public relations success is a critical part of the PR process, and although quantifying PR efforts can be challenging, with the right data, that challenge can be met. Evaluating various metrics, such as communications AVE, impressions, sentiment, and media engagement, enables marketers to understand what’s working and where additional work needs to be done.
If there’s one big takeaway from the process of measuring public relations, it’s this: the impact of a public relations strategy cannot be measured by analyzing one metric. Taking a holistic approach and diving into a culmination of KPIs and metrics will truly help assess the efficacy of any campaign.
p.s. If you’re interested in working with us on a transformative public relations strategy to craft your story and share it with the world through re-imagined earned media, book a time to chat with us here.