How to measure PR – effective ways to understand the return on PR investment.

One of the most common questions we get asked is how PR can be measured.

It’s a controversial subject amongst PR professionals themselves and one that generates great debate. How to measure PR? How can you measure the goodwill that you generate for a brand?

At the same time, we understand that it’s difficult for businesses to agree to external PR support if they can’t somehow compare PR results against “hard” marketing measures such as leads generated or sales converted.

There is no hard and fast answer, but there are some effective ways for clients and companies to get a handle on the return they are getting on their PR investment. Here are just a few:


The number of people who have seen your print media campaign is fairly easy to calculate via Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures. What it doesn’t show is how those people have been affected by your campaign or whether they’ve taken action as a result.


PR campaigns are most effective when they repeat your messages to your target audience over and over again. Using calculation of readership figures and analysis of press cuttings from the coverage you’ve had, you can work out how many times your target audience has read or seen your messages. Some PR or evaluation companies combine this with reach to come up with a measure called “Opportunity to See” (OTS).

Share of Voice

If you want to see how your PR is performing versus your competitors, identify which companies you want to benchmark yourself against and measure via the number of articles or space you each command in your target publications.

Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE)

AVE calculates the number of column inches you have and tells you how much it would have cost you to buy the equivalent space in advertising. Many PR professionals believe this measure to be one-dimensional as it doesn’t take into account the true value of the PR or how effective that coverage has been in meeting your objectives. PR has been shown to be three times as effective as advertising because rather than “direct” selling, you are actually getting far more valuable independent “endorsement” when a journalist positively references your brand in their copy.

Impact and relevance

Whilst the measures above concentrate on numerical outcomes, it’s also important to evaluate the real value that PR has brought to your organisation. There’s no point, for instance having 500,000 OTS, when none of them are in relevant publications for your audience. You can measure the impact of coverage by tone of voice, relevance, number of messages conveyed or positivity/negativity, for example.

Surveys and Perception Audits

These can be effective if you are running a campaign to, say, change people’s behaviour or attitudes to something. By asking them before and after the campaign, you can evaluate how effective your campaign has been in changing their perceptions.
Perception Audits can be used as a standalone tool to inform your business and marketing strategy, as well as forming part of PR evaluation.

More information

In 2013, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), and the PRCA, the UK Public Relations Consultants Association, launched the definitive guide to public relations evaluation, which is available here.

And finally

It’s worth remembering the purpose of PR in the first place. PR is not there to generate direct leads (although that often happens), or to convert leads into customers. Its purpose is to generate the optimum amount of goodwill amongst your target audiences or stakeholders to underpin the sales and marketing effort and to safeguard your company’s reputation.

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