What constitutes PR success? How do you establish and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) and return on investment (ROI)? Measuring the value of PR can be a challenge, and the reality is that the metrics used to determine success are different for each organization. So, how do you know which metrics are meaningful for you?

To that, we ask: What constitutes PR success for your business? For PR metrics to be meaningful, they must be tied to your business goals. Whenever we start working with a new client, our PR team sits down with them to discuss overall business objectives. With that knowledge, we craft a PR plan and establish the unique goals of the PR program. All metrics of PR success must be customized to the client and the PR objective. Only meaningful metrics like these can help businesses determine the true value of their investment in PR.

The Three W’s of Meaningful Measurement: Why, What and When

At RH Strategic, everything we do is in service of a larger strategic goal. We work with clients to identify meaningful metrics that will help move them toward the goals they hoped to achieve by investing in PR. All of our tactics support the overall goal of the PR program.

More importantly, we ask questions. Those questions can be broken down into the three W’s of meaningful metrics:

  • Why? Always start by asking, “Why?” Why this campaign? Why these tactics and strategies? And why these tools? If the answer is not, “Because focusing our PR efforts on these channels and audiences will help us achieve our goal,” then we rethink and propose different tactics and strategies better aligned with the client’s objectives.
  • What? What metrics are most valuable for this campaign? Modern campaigns often include a mix of traditional media, social media, and sometimes digital media. Each medium includes its own unique set of metrics, so knowing where we are targeting strategic communications will help determine what metrics we use. Of the many potential metrics available today — including media hits, briefings, reach, web traffic, social media shares, backlinks and more — we focus on the best metrics for the overall goal or campaign. We then ensure we have the right tools to capture these meaningful metrics.
  • When? When do we report on the metrics we have identified? This cadence is always determined in partnership with the client. We may report monthly, quarterly, annually or (in the case of a major announcement or launch) day-of, depending on the client.

Customization Is Key

Beware any PR firm that tries to tell you that there is only one true measurement of PR success. Ditto any PR firm that suggests you must hit a list of arbitrary metrics not strategically aligned to your business objectives. In PR, as in many aspects of business today, customization is key. No matter what industry you operate in, your PR firm should work with you to create, measure and report on meaningful metrics that map back to your business goals. This will help you understand the true impact of your PR dollars.


RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.