“16 Candles:” Illuminating Online PR Measurement

Research results announced last month by B2B Magazineshow that 93 percent of B2B marketers use social media in some form, but only 25 percent of them measure the return on investment (ROI) of their social media marketing efforts.  To me, this isn’t that surprising, despite the mantra from C-suites everywhere for ROI metrics. The fact is, most people feel it is too difficult, not affordable, or not practical to measure social media results. 

Even so, the discussion about measurement of PR results online, and of online influence, gets louder all the time.  This topic has become more confusing as it grows more complex, and is especially difficult for small and medium-size businesses without large internal resources and budgets for communications. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve exchanged emails about online PR measurement with several colleagues and clients, both here in the U.S. and abroad, who want affordable and practical methods for measuring online PR  results.   

In an effort to organize useful information on this topic for both my own sake and to help readers of this blog, I’ll summarize some of the resources available to help with online PR measurement as well as current thinking about it by industry leaders.

Why measure online activity?

How do you measure online PR activity? A lot of marketing consultants, software companies, authors and conference sponsors are making money answering this question! However, before it can be answered, you have to ask why you’re measuring. Companies measure online PR activity to obtain a couple of types of information:

*The ROI from online PR

*Data about online PR and promotion programs that will help improve those programs

*Data about trends, market needs and competitors’ activities that will help in sales and marketing decision-making

Barcelona Measurement Principles

A few years ago, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (www.amecorg.com) was formed as the global trade organization and professional institute for agencies and practitioners who provide media evaluation and communication research.  Last year IAMEC published “The Barcelona Measurement Principles,” the result of several international public relations associations working together to come up with seven universal principles of PR measurement. (The bullet points below these points are mine.)

1.   Importance of goal-setting and measurement

  • What to measure depends on the goals one sets for online activity

2.   Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs

  • Example: the number of Facebook fans accumulated over a certain time period is much less important than the effect Facebook fans have on sales or on brand reputation

3.   The effect on business results can and should be measured where possible

4.   Media measurement requires quantity and quality

  • Example: the number of Tweets about a product aren’t as important as what those Tweets say

5.   AVEs [advertising value equivalents] are not the value of public relations

  • PR agencies and in-house departments used to provide ROI numbers by figuring out what each piece of media coverage would have cost if it were a paid ad. This is not appropriate, since advertising and so-called “earned” media via public relations are apples and oranges, serve different purposes and should not be compared to each other.

6.   Social media can and should be measured

7.   Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement

What to measure

Here are a few examples of what you could measure to help determine the ROI from your online programs:

  • Company website visits coming from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog or other focus of online PR activity
  • Coupon use tracked to a specific online program
  • Change in awareness of a company or its products or services, measured with a survey
  • Both quantity and quality of online media coverage (quality = tone of articles, blog posts or Tweets; delivery of company’s key messages)
  • Search engine rankings pre- and post-campaign for online campaigns


6.      Katie Delahaye Paine, who had one of the first PR measurement companies and is a communications measurement guru, wrote “Measure What Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships,” available from Amazon.

 7.      The Institute for Public Relations, a non-profit industry organization that encourages research about measurement, publishes papers and articles on this topic on its website

8.      Hubspot, a company that sells “inbound marketing software,” provides access to a webinar on measurement of social media at its website:

 9.      Sinickas Communications is a company that provides consulting services on PR measurement as well as offering training workshops for do-it-yourselfers.

10.  You may find this article about measurement useful. It’s written by a former accountant in the UK who is evidently about to launch a new PR measurement tool


Here are a few online tools that measure specific types of online activity:

11.  Klout Score –a new tool (free) that measures the online influence of an individual (or company). Klout’s software uses 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score. Rumor is that LinkedIn variables will be added shortly.

12.  Twitalzer – similar to Klout, provides an analysis of the Twitter impact, engagement and influence of a brand or a person.

13.  Twitter Counter – tracks the number of followers you or a brand have over time.

14.  Hubspot offers a free Website Grader that scores your blog or website on various criteria and lets you compare your site with competitors’.

15.  Compete has a free tool for measuring the number of unique visitors to a website.

16.  Radian6 is a comprehensive social media tracking and measurement tool that was recently acquired by Salesforce.com.

 I hope these are useful to some of you. If you have a good tool or resource not listed here (especially if it’s free!), please comment and let the rest of us know about it.

Lucy Siegel

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2 Responses to ““16 Candles:” Illuminating Online PR Measurement”

  1. Trish Forant Says:

    Great synopsis of resources available to help with online PR measurement. Thanks for including us!

    All the best,
    Trish (@Dayngr)
    Community Manager | Radian6

  2. Bridge Global Strategies Says:

    Thanks, Trish!

    I would welcome people’s suggestions of other resources and tools. It’s especially helpful to know about lower-cost or no-cost tools that even small companies can afford.


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