How to measure PR results

Measuring the real significance of a single press release is notoriously difficult. If we were doing a large, consumer oriented PR campaign, it is much easier to measure results. For example, a big PR campaign about a new record shows up almost instantly in iTunes downloads. Most building products, however, have a much more diffuse and slower path to market.

We can share anecdotal information: For example, a contractor told one of our clients that he had just finished comparing two bids, and our client's was high. The very same day, however, the contractor saw an article about our client's product and remembered how much more efficient it was to install than the competitor's. The article inspired the contractor to accept our client's higher priced bid. When people call or email you, do you always inquire where they learned about your company? Doing so, and tracking the information, can provide valuable data.

Another way we can measure is by adding up the cost of buying an equivalent amount of advertising space. For example, a trade magazine article will probably be six or more pages in length. Purchasing the same amount of ad space would cost about $20,000 plus the cost of designing the ad, much more than you would pay to write and place the article.

PR generates awareness, and awareness is accumulative and builds slowly. Our clients still report inquiries from publicity we placed a decade ago. This is even more likely to happen in the new online era, where documents remain in circulation indefinitely. A Google search on your building product after sending your press release will now show your site in the top 20 hits. With continued PR, we may be able to raise its ranking to the top 10.

PR is never meant to stand alone, but to work in conjunction with other marketing efforts. For example, Wikipedia may not allow us to insert your company's URL directly into its website; but we can now link building product) to one of the online postings based on your press release.

In advertising, you control the schedule for when an ad reaches its audience. With PR, you surrender much of this control. While many online news outlets pick up wire service stories almost instantly, other editors file press releases away for later use -- and this could be as little as two months from now or as great as one year from now.

Finally, don't discount the possibility, even the likelihood, that your product had an immediate impact. Some building owner or designer may have seen the press release the same day it went online, and forwarded the post to his project architect to use on the project where they are just beginning the landscaping plans.

These are some of the reasons we recommend establishing an ongoing PR budget to keep your product visible, continuing to build brand awareness, planting seeds that will bloom in their own season, and continuing to improve your search engine standings.