Public Relations and Data Management: How to Get (and Measure) Better Results

Click to learn more about author Luke Budka.

The traditional world of PR is not typically associated with the use of data. Not too long ago, those in the industry would sift through piles of newspapers and magazines, ruler in hand, looking for coverage. Their job was to measure the size and space of each piece of coverage, and then calculate the Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). This refers to the cost of the media space taken up by an article that otherwise could have been used for an advertisement.

Surprisingly, AVE figures are still a popular way to measure PR results – even in the online space. However, as the profession evolves and becomes increasingly entwined with digital marketing, more industry leaders are dismissing AVEs as amateurish and, even, inaccurate.

The field that has become known as ‘digital PR’ is transforming not only how PR consultancies service their clients, but also how they measure their contribution to their clients’ business objectives. The jury is out on an exact definition for what digital PR is, but in a nutshell, it’s the ‘use of online trusted, independent, unbiased, third parties to positively influence a brand’s target audience’.

This involves natural crossovers with digital marketing, using tactics such as search engine optimisation (SEO), video and social media, amongst others, to raise a company’s online profile. Because the online world is naturally more data-driven, consultancies can track – and therefore measure – PR-driven results such as increased website traffic and leads with greater accuracy.

Data Management and quality data resources beat AVEs hands down as a way to measure PR return on investment. Here are some of the most important metrics – and how they can help improve your reporting.

Website Traffic – Referral, Direct and Organic

It would be amiss not to discuss how PR and SEO complement each other. In fact, there are many PR practitioners who would say that PR and SEO are one and the same (what’s the difference between appearing on page one of Google’s search engine results and appearing in a newspaper? Both are valuable forms of publicity – the difference being the effects of one can be measured, while the effects of the other cannot). Either way, when it comes to a company’s website, good digital PR that includes aspects of SEO can help boost referral, direct and organic traffic.

Referral traffic comes from sources other than search engines. In other words, these visitors clicked on social media links, advertising links and links achieved through PR coverage to get to a website. Referral traffic is important because it’s come from websites and channels that are already relevant to the brand. In other words, the people who arrive on your client’s website are already likely to be interested in what the company can do for them.

Direct traffic is exactly that, direct. Visitors come straight to a company’s website, without going through any other channel or search engine. This is a great indicator of brand awareness – after all, if the visitor isn’t aware of the company’s brand, how would they know how to get directly to its website?

Organic traffic is achieved through visitors arriving on a website via search engines. It’s a clear indication that target keywords are performing well and sending pre-qualified visitors to your client’s website.

Share of Voice

When assessing a company’s share of voice (SOV), we are simply determining how much of the conversation it holds in the market compared to its competitors. This is a valuable metric to consider as it can be measured across many channels – and used to compare a brand’s market position versus its competition.

Public relations SOV focuses on how much media coverage a brand is racking up in its target media publications compared to its rivals. Organic search SOV looks at how well a brand’s website is showing up for target keywords versus its competitors’ sites, and social media SOV assesses how much a brand is being talked about on Twitter, Facebook, et al versus its competitors.

Share of voice helps consultancies keep an eye on their clients’ brands and what their competitors are doing. Unlike AVEs, which require a lot of manual effort to pull and put together and are wildly inaccurate, automated tools can track SOV – for a client’s brand and its competitors -– across all relevant channels.

That said, establishing an accurate SOV process can take time. It also can’t simply be left to run itself. Share of voice needs to be managed and it needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changing competitors, channel priorities and media outlets.

Brand Mentions and Branded Searches

Brand mentions are a natural result of doing good PR. Of course, it’s important to ensure that your clients’ brands are being used in the right places and mentioned in the right tone of voice. Part of any PR practitioner’s job is to protect their clients from negative coverage.

Brand mentions are easy to keep track of – using one of the many different Data Management tools that are available (e.g. Google Alerts) – and their value is easily understood by clients. What’s more, for the time-poor, tracking competitive brand mentions is a much simple and more straightforward metric than website traffic or SOV.

Brand mentions are becoming increasingly valuable from an SEO perspective too. The SEO community is beginning to suspect that Google is attaching value to brand mentions on semantically-related, high authority websites (e.g. online newspapers) and on social networks. If a company’s brand name is appearing on websites related to its field of expertise, search engines will see this as a sign of trust and view the company as an authority in its field. This in turn will help improve the company’s website search engine rankings, pushing it further up the results pages.

Branded searches are also a good way of measuring increasing awareness. Google Search Console is a free piece of software you can use to see which keywords your client’s website visitors typed into Google before visiting their site. Over the course of a successful PR campaign you would expect searches for your client’s brand name to increase – another very easy metric to measure and one that you can backdate to chart campaign effectiveness.

In today’s business environment, PR consultancies can no longer rely upon AVEs as a way of demonstrating their value to clients. The digital environment has transformed not only how PR is delivered, but what clients expect from their service providers. Measurement matters more than ever before to determine real value and some vague reference to ‘column inches’ just won’t cut it. Leading PR practitioners now need to use metrics that show clients a solid return on their investment: competitive share of voice, more website traffic, and positive and increasing numbers of brand mentions are just a few of the measurement options available.


We use technologies such as cookies to understand how you use our site and to provide a better user experience. This includes personalizing content, using analytics and improving site operations. We may share your information about your use of our site with third parties in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can change your cookie settings as described here at any time, but parts of our site may not function correctly without them. By continuing to use our site, you agree that we can save cookies on your device, unless you have disabled cookies.
I Accept