By Doreen Clark

There is no reason to do anything if you aren’t going to do it well. Right? This holds true for all areas of business—including its promotion through PR efforts—and high growth is the key.

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “Public relations is about influencing, engaging, and building a relationship with key stakeholders across a myriad of platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.” Yet, the age-old question remains: What are the metrics that show success, growth, and that a strategy is on the right track?

The best way to set goals for a PR growth strategy is to think about the ways in which a strategy will be measured and then incorporate the best elements into each. There are many ways to gain knowledge about how PR is moving the needle for an organization. In particular, understanding these five metrics can help you set goals and monitor growth within a campaign:  

1. Engagement

Engagement shows how your target market is interacting with your content and your brand. It can be a like, a share, or a comment, or the audience can become part of the sales pipeline by clicking on a call to action. This metric shows whether or not your effort was merely content or if it hit the bull’s-eye. In order to start discussions, create interest, or spark a reader to become a potential customer, the content must be fresh— not a rehashed subject. Or, if it is a common subject, take a new spin. Don’t be afraid to have an opinion or go out on a limb. After all, the media is neutral (except for bloggers). Therefore, they can report the news without you, but they need you for an opinion.. That is where you can set yourself apart. The takeaway? The more perspective you can share, the more engagement you will create.

2. Impressions

Impressions are simply the potential for eyeballs. Therefore, it is common sense that the higher the circulation, the more likely it is that people are seeing your content. However, heed this warning: Don’t just go for numbers. Always stay targeted. If your target market is better served in a trade publication with 50,000 in circulation, that is better than a mainstream pub with 2M in potential readership. The reason is if your strategy is not about your audience, you are missing the mark. If your content is published or you have a mention in an outlet with a potential audience of 30,000, we can presume that each of these can be a potential customer. And, you want a potential customer—not just a reader of your content. However, this metric should not be used as a stand-alone. Just because there is a circulation of 30,000 does not mean that number will actually read your article. This metric should be used in coordination with other PR measurement tools. The takeaway? Go for target audience, not numbers.

3. Mentions

Mentions measure how many times a brand is talked about. Every organization wants to be part of a discussion that pertains to its area of expertise. Whether simply mentioned or part of a larger feature, the discussion of a brand can elevate a company and deliver information to an audience that may not have been aware of a product or service before. The key for every PR strategy, in regard to mentions, is this: Don’t just monitor those that you have outreach with. You may be talked about more than you think. Brandwatch stated that “96 percent of the people that talk about your brand do not follow you.” The takeaway? Explore beyond your following.  

4. Reach

Reach is an over-time measurement. This component can show where you came from, or where your competitors came from, and where you are after a campaign or after a certain amount of time. If you want growth, you have to go where your audience is. If your audience is on a certain platform but you are not an expert there, train or hire. The best way to grow is to meet your customers where they are. According to the Pew Research Center, “Facebook usage and engagement is on the rise, while adoption of other platforms holds steady.” So, you think your customers only use Twitter? Think again. The research stated, “Of total population, 68 percent of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, while 25 percent use LinkedIn and 21 percent use Twitter.” Yet, Brandwatch states that only 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies engage with customers on Facebook, while 83 percent have a presence on Twitter. This is an opportunity waiting to happen. The takeaway? Know your audience and where they interact.

5. Items

Items are simply a count of what content goes digital. The more you get out there—blogs, bylines, expert comments, videos, etc.—the more likely that you are gaining attention and introducing your brand to an audience that may not have come in contact with it before. If writers and editors don’t know about your company, weren’t introduced to your thought leaders, or didn’t know of your content, you have missed the mark. The takeaway? Outreach, outreach, outreach.


PRSA states, “Almost half of PR professionals and more than 60 percent of marketing executives believe that marketing and PR will continue to become more closely aligned.” If this is the case, then marketing can’t be the only effort that uses consistent measurement. Though PR efforts are more difficult to align with sales, over time a case for growth—through PR efforts—can be made if goals are directly tied to the metrics that are being analyzed. Understand engagement, impressions, mentions, reach, and items. Understand how to boost each metric and you may be on a path for a high-growth PR campaign.
Let's Talk
Doreen Clark

About the author

Doreen Clark is the Director of Public Relations for SmartBug Media. She has over a decade of public relations and communications experience helping both B2B and consumer clients gain media exposure. Read more articles by Doreen Clark.