How to measure the success of a PR campaign

Google Analytics on a phone

A numbers game 

Back in the early days of public relations, PR professionals only had publication circulation figures to share as proof of success. There was only really one question asked by anyone: How many pieces of coverage had been achieved?

The outcome was vague and proving the ROI could be challenging. Although the PR industry has developed since the days of paper ‘coverage books’ (though some do still keep them), the need to provide quantifiable results to our clients has not diminished.

Carrying out a PR campaign is a lengthy process. Regardless of how long the actual campaign itself runs, time needs to be invested in preparation and evaluation. So why wouldn’t you want to know how well it has done?

Also, not only does measuring the outcomes of a PR campaign help to gauge its success but can also provide a guide to refine it for the future.

Whilst there is still no exact mathematical formula available to quantify PR ROI, the changing face of communications offers an opportunity for some more data to analyse. Now, as an industry, we must work out how to analyse and measure this success in a way that makes sense for everyone – especially the client.

The times, they are a-changin’

The rise of digital and social media has changed the way we measure the success of a PR campaign. There is now an embarrassment of riches when it comes to real-time data.

From clicks through from an article, to the power of an event hashtag, PR professionals can now offer clients a greater insight into the reach and exposure of their brand.

PR is more than just working with the media, it is now about website content, social media mentions, and especially how these different areas of communications work together.

The integration of PR and social media is growing stronger by the day, and this is definitely a relationship with benefits. Social media analytics is at the forefront of measuring a campaign’s success, but work still needs to be done in order to get the most out of this data.

Establish your goals at the start

If you have no idea what you’re trying to achieve, how will you know if you get there or not?

Preparation is the key and whether you are in it for the long-term or just a few weeks, starting the right way with a clear set of objectives is at the heart of every successful PR campaign.

If you are struggling with knowing what goals to set, there is always the SMART technique we’ve outlined before to set you on the right track.  Realistic, specific, achievable, and most importantly measurable goals will set your PR campaign on the right track – and give you the power to compare.

Put simply, if you want to measure the success of your PR campaign, get a list of KPIs and objectives set up from the start and check back in regularly.

So… how did we do?

It is important to take a step back throughout the campaign, not just at the end, to check yourself off against your KPIs.

Take time to ask yourself the important questions…

Who was on our target list?

Make sure you have made contact with the people you wanted to. Remember this is not just about securing that one piece of coverage but also building a long-term relationship with the journalist. Even if your story isn’t right for your journalist at a particular time, you might be relevant to them for a future piece. A successful PR campaign is one that leaves them knowing who you are.

Have we talked to the right media, at the right time?

If you missed a deadline or spent too long chasing the wrong journalist, this is the time to ask yourself why. If you have taken too long to get the information to a journalist, then look at your turnaround times and approval processes. It might be time to tighten up those timeframes. If you wasted time on the wrong person or angle, more time might need to be spent researching. Learn from these mistakes, and don’t repeat them.

Did all the themes get covered?

Obviously, before you start you will have a list of key themes you want to talk to the media about. You may find that some have not ‘clicked’ with the journalists this time. That is OK. This is not a failure.
However, take a moment to figure out what did click. Knowing which angles and articles got picked up the most will only hone the success for the future.

What engagement did we get on social media?

This is where the real fun with numbers begins. It is not just about the coverage you achieved, it is now what you do with it. Having an article out there for people to read in the publication is not the end of it. There are millions more people you can reach with this article at just the click of a button. Sharing content and news articles often receives the most engagement on social media, and a quick analysis will show how many shares, clicks through, likes and more will give you an overall view of the success of the campaign.

Watching the number of followers grow and the retweets boom can make us feel good to look at, but make sure you work out what it really means. Have you been engaging with the right people? Have visits to the company website seen a surge? Was that surge related to a particular news story or piece of coverage you shared?

“I gotta feeling…”

There is an old business opinion that if we can’t measure it, does it really exist?

Whilst Google Analytics and new PR tools like Coverage Book are offering us the opportunity to measure a PR campaign’s success with numbers, there is nothing wrong with checking on how you ‘feel’ about it?

Showing the value in something is one of the hardest things to do. The numbers may show one thing, but it still might not have lived up to expectations.

Depending on the type of PR campaign and the KPIs, how it left people feeling can be the most powerful sales tool. Focus groups and testimonials can help put the emotions into words if you have to, but otherwise, if you are happy with it, then you can count it as a success.

PR campaigns can add value and, as an industry, we are getting one step closer to proving it.

Join in the conversation over on Twitter.

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