The Best and Worst of PR Measurement - Round 4: Ranking Placements

In this next edition of our look at common types of public relations measurement, we will look at measurement based on ranking placements according to influence or significance of the publication to a given company and/or by the length and tone of the coverage (such as a mention vs. profile, etc).

What it is:

Ranking publications in a tier-like format is a practice that a few of our clients have adhered to over the past few years and it has worked relatively well for us (and them). What it does is break down publications into three (or more) primary groups: 1 for top-tier or feature profiles, 2 for secondary publications or round up stories, and 3 for lower-tier, more easily achieved placements.

Goals can then be set based on determining how many 1, 2, and 3 placements can be achieved in a given timeline. This method provides a more accurate look at what the placements mean to the company as opposed to just saying 6 placements were achieved in the month of January.

Additionally, the ability to pick what placements fall into the set categories helps to make sure rankings align with business goals. Companies can really look at what publications or types of stories would move the needle for them and rank them accordingly to properly set goals for PR efforts.

For example, rankings for one of our clients include:

  • 1: A top-tier national publication OR an article in a key trade pub. Sure, a piece in the Wall Street Journal or similar top tier publication would be ideal – but chances are it is a long shot for the average company. So companies need to determine what their reach goal is, as well what type of stories would also be considered a major win and is a bit more achievable. In many cases, this could be an article in a sought after trade publication that profiles your company specifically, as opposed to a round up.
  • 2: A trade publication specific to your industry or an important vertical. These articles will likely be seen by key industry players and potential customers that, as a result of the article, may become a lead. This might also include a profile article in a mainstream local publication or an authored article in a trade publication, which enables your company to fully tell their message and views.
  • 3: A lower-tiered publication such as a local publication or one that has limited scope. While this type of news may not have a business impact, it will keep beating the drum and letting people your company has an ongoing stream of news.

 

Benefits:

A reason why a lot of our clients like this method is because it is numbers based – providing a clear-cut way to measure against goals. One of the hardest parts of PR measurement is the number of different interpretations there are when it comes to measurement. Assigning a ranking system leaves little wiggle room for higher-ups to determine if goals have been met or not and provides more insight into what coverage is doing for the company that a large list of placements.

Another benefit is that this form of measurement can be specifically tailored towards a given company. Most likely every company we work with has a different view of success and a different end-goal. Using a ranking system allows companies to determine what placements equal a success to them. Unlike other measurement systems that apply the same metrics across placement regardless of end-goals, a ranking system allows companies to think through which placements follow their definition of a win and enables the agency to measure against that standard.

Weaknesses:

With ranking publications, it is often hard to determine what pubs fall into which category. While this may seem like a simple task, it oftentimes is more difficult than PR professionals would like.

For instance, a story in the New York Times would undeniably be a win and a top-tier publication that we would rank a 1. However, if a story in Government Computer News helps to move the needle more for a company and ultimately creates more legitimate leads – should that also be considered a 1 even if it is less broadly viewed?

The problem then becomes, if rankings are set from the beginning of a relationship, there is no way to truly tell what kind of impact an article will have until after it runs and you are able to measure the increased web traffic, leads, etc. The best option is more of a guess and check method, whereas placements are analyzed after running and then it is determined between the company and agency where the placement should fall. While this is hard because the rankings are subjective – one person’s 2 may be another person’s 1 – hopefully there are enough facts to make a legitimate recommendation as to which category a placement should go under.

Additionally, with this method there would need to be a different system set up to measure non-placement goals such as social media, etc. as ranking is strictly limited to measuring media placements.

Overall assessment:

Overall, the clients we have worked with that use ranking as their form of measurement have been pleased with the method. Given that they are able to tailor the ranking to their definition of a success, it is unique to each client and makes it clear if these goals are achieved or not.

While there would need to be a lengthy conversation in regards to what makes sense for a ranking system, once that is determined if provides a more realistic look at the value of placement and the view of quality of quantity as a one-1 would likely trump six-3’s in an average month.