From marketing managers to sales teams to the C-suite, many stakeholders feel the benefits of successful PR campaigns—and use the metrics that measure success to adapt business strategies or make more data-driven decisions.

However, almost half of B2B marketing managers claim that determining real business contribution levels from PR agencies is a difficult task, a recent IBA primary research study found.

For some PR agencies, a high volume of "media engagement" is the most important consideration when measuring PR success, although others—such as SEO benefits, coverage breakdowns, and messaging pull through—are more effective.

Media engagements simply entail a conversation or email with a journalist, and they do not make measuring PR performance or spend any easier for marketing managers or the C-suite.

In fact, 41% of marketing managers said they find their public relations agency to be overly focused on achieving media engagements rather than securing quantifiable content placements, IBA's research discovered.

As for securing actual coverage, many PR agencies are too dependent on familiar media contacts for their placements, the research also indicated: More than one-third of marketing managers experience coverage in the same small selection of media.

Much more can be done to measure the success of media campaigns, and the following three metrics can help organizations successfully measure their PR output.

1. Do a coverage breakdown—collect, log, and assess the data

Quarterly or half-yearly reporting should give agencies and their marketing managers a sizeable sample to work with in dissecting campaign performance, velocity, and momentum—i.e., showing which content formats have performed well, and where.

The value of information depends on thorough data collection. Data entry must guarantee correctly logged and coded coverage and note type of deliverable, release, positioning article, thought leadership, case study, feature, interview, and so on, as well as how it was displayed by the publishing outlet and the format in which it was published (online platform, digital issue, hard copy, or newsletter, for example).

Observe the trends

Once the numbers are collected, trends should become apparent through data analysis.

For a campaign featuring a split of articles, press releases, and interview outreach, organizations can look at the results and consider whether the coverage formats match the levels of activity.

For example, a high volume of news coverage vs. bylined placements may indicate that an organization has not reached "thought leadership status" within their target industries. On the other hand, a lack of news coverage may indicate the company needs to rethink its press release strategy.

Refresh your target media list

Reaching multiple publications with a PR campaign is paramount because it will ensure widespread coverage. As noted earlier, 34% of marketing managers say their Public relations agency is ineffectual as a result of repetitive placements in the same small selection of media.

A review of target media must be a priority, and it must be continuously updated.

Come to grips with UVPM

For businesses that use unique visitors per month (UVPM) to determine campaign reach, an analysis of the news item's overall coverage will indicate campaign impressions.

However, companies should chase high UPVM figures with caution, and not at the cost of targeted campaigns. They're pursuing B2B decision-makers and potential buyers, not a vast consumer audience.

Uncover newswire flaws

If you're using newswires, a data-led approach can make a distinction between wire-driven syndications and quality coverage that has been picked up, read, and posted by a physical journalist.

The ability to gauge excessive newswire expenditure also opens up the opportunity for businesses to reduce the service and focus on pitching.

2. Dig deeper—do regional and message-related analysis

The previous section discusses analysis by format and asset origin, but this section delves a little deeper into how marketing managers can understand more about how their campaigns and messages are resonating externally.

All coverage should be coded by message and, for international campaigns, by geography. After 6-12 months, PR coverage can give B2B marketing departments an accurate reflection of which campaigns and messages are performing well and, most significant, where.

Such metrics can be used to frame strategies, ensuring that topics of most interest to the media correspond with the company marketing messages of the B2B organization. Those messages may need to be prioritized, modernized, or revisited.

Coverage reporting may show certain topics are more developed in particular geographies, or even industries, and marketing strategies can be easily tailored to ensure the most relevant messages are delivered to the most receptive audiences.

3. Boost traffic and lead generation for inbound benefits

Outside of the marketing department, business leaders will want to know what value they are deriving from their PR investment and how PR's inbound benefits can be measured.

Media outlets are progressively moving online, paving the way for B2B organizations to boost their digital lead generation. Those outlets have websites with extremely high-ranking domains, both in UVPM and search result prominence. Therefore, a targeted PR campaign generating high coverage volumes in influential media outlets will ensure a B2B organization, its messaging, and its keywords are featured prominently in authoritative third-party domains.

Ultimately, potential customers seeking specific software or solutions to industry issues are more likely to find a B2B organization that has a consistent and active media strategy.

Get mileage out of your backlinks

On direct level, by drafting the content they submit to influential media outlets, B2B marketers have substantial control over the backlinks they include.

Press releases can contain relevant product page links, and bylined content can incorporate links to specific areas of the company website—research, whitepapers, blogs, and more. Clickthrough can be tracked through marketing platforms, or simply through UTM-codes and Google Analytics.

Measuring PR metrics makes an impact!

Good PR performance gives B2B organizations a head start in measuring insightful PR metrics, so ensuring continual and widespread coverage in a variety of media publications is pivotal because it allows PR to showcase its progress and demonstrate its impact on company's sales and marketing.

More Resources on Measuring PR Campaigns

PR Measurement Is All About Outputs, Outtakes, and Outcomes: Shonali Burke on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Seven Questions to Ask When Hiring a PR Agency

How to Make Public Relations Drive SEO

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image of Jamie Kightley

Jamie Kightley is the head of client services at IBA International, a B2B PR agency serving global technology clients.

LinkedIn: Jamie Kightley