Does PR Work? Six Ways to Answer this Critical Question.

How much is a media mention worth to your business?

The answer depends, of course, on how well a publication's audience is aligned with the brand's, the publication's reach and a number of other variables. Even with so many factors to account for, there are some proven ways to measure the effectiveness of a public relations program.

Andrew Cross, Vice President and Partner of Public Relations at Walker Sands, offers six ways that organizations can affirmatively answer the question, "Does PR work?" Here are his recommended methods for measuring PR program effectiveness:

andew_cross1. Placement Tracking. Track the volume of media coverage that mentions your company or products and services. You can segment media coverage by tier, industry, topic, or other parameters. This can be a good proxy for which audiences are most receptive to your message, as well as for evaluating your goals.

2. Content Analysis. Monitor the quality of media coverage content. One option here is to develop a scoring system. For example, the article gets one point for each of the following: company name, product name, quote, backlink, customer quote, etc. Then you develop a benchmark point average per placement. This can also be used to determine which opportunities are worth pursuing.

3. Website Traffic. Look at the top referral sources and determine which are attributable to PR. Another option is to build a custom list of domains to track within Google Analytics. It's worth noting that both will likely underestimate the impact of PR because you aren't able to precisely attribute direct or organic traffic to PR (from a TV spot or an article without a backlink, for example).

4. Market Surveys. If budget allows, consider conducting a brand awareness or brand preference survey before and after launching your PR campaign. You can use focus groups or one-on-one phone interviews to get a more well-rounded understanding.

5. Social Media Mentions. Social media measurements should focus on metrics like engagement, conversions and share of voice. Tracking social media shares of earned media can give a better idea of the traction your brand is getting.

6. Lead Sourcing. Asking new customers to self-report how they heard about you is an option, but it adds an extra field in an online form, and some studies have shown that people don't accurately self-report. It's better to have proper conversion attribution set up in your systems. This can be done by setting up a proprietary conversion attribution model that doesn't give 100 percent credit to the last touch, but instead gives partial credit to the various touch points along the way - including PR.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your PR program? Let us know in the comments below.