Public Relations (PR) has often been treated as this stand alone category that marketers know has value, but have had trouble justifying when it comes time to report on its return on investment (ROI).

No, PR isn’t a real easy concept to understand because it is often intangible. There’s no widget at the end of the day that you can hold up and say, “I made this.” The results are often more long-term in nature to track and don’t fit into a neatly laid out set of common reporting metrics.

So it might surprise you to learn that companies spend an estimated $11 billion on PR annually. While both small and large companies recognize its significance to varying degrees, both struggle to determine its effectiveness. Just under 80% of marketers believe they are successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing and PR programs, according to a 2015 Content Marketing Institute Report.

Yes, PR is still very important and belongs as part of your marketing plan. And yes, you need to be able to track it in meaningful ways. Depending on the size and nature of your company you may be able to point to tweets you’ve sent or a story lead you provided or even a story that didn’t hit the news cycle because you worked a little crisis management PR.

That’s a great start. Now you need to continue moving forward by integrating your PR tactics and monitoring into your overall marketing ecosystem. That way you are identifying and providing a framework for your PR activities so their impact is understood in the larger marketing automation landscape.

This is a different approach then simply relying on media impressions and advertising equivalencies (AVEs) to track your work. And that’s a good thing to move on from this old way of measuring. The International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication announced in 2017 to completely ban the practice of using AVEs as a metric. They have worked closely with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) to stress that members no longer provide clients this metric or provide award organizers with this metric.

Guidelines PR practitioners would like to see adopted include using metrics such as increased sales conversions, shortened sales cycle, and increased margins to name a few. To get to that though, you need to have a strong command of all the data that is at your fingertips. This may require some additional learning on your behalf or outsourcing to understand where and what data to use to help achieve your PR goals.

Let’s take a look at three key public relations metrics that will help show the important impact of PR on your company’s bottom line.

More Qualified Leads – Set your sights on getting more qualified prospects – highly motivated people who may eventually make a purchase. You will need to track the trail your customers leave after purchasing, perhaps through special URLs. Then you’ll be able to determine where the type of prospects you want are coming from, such as a specific social media post or social media outlet. This will help you understand where the serious decisions makers are getting your content that is motivating them to take action.

Shortened Sales Cycle – This may be an especially important metric for companies that are in the B2B space, where a sales cycle could take from two days to two years. To set the metric, you need to determine with your sales team the average length a sale takes. Set the appropriate goal less than the current average time. Tracking results will be easier if you utilize your company’s CRM system to schedule PR tactics and then track the results through the system. Scheduled tactics can include creating valuable content and sharing it with prospects through email, social media campaigns, and your website.

Increased Revenue – You want your PR efforts to positively affect growth. If you can attain data that shows daily revenue figures you can track this metric a little more easily. For companies that have ecommerce, tie your PR campaigns to trackable landing pages so you know how many people make purchases. Then, utilize your company’s CRM system to track purchasers back to your PR content.

Additional Resources:

15 Best Social Media Tools

A Chiquita PR Campaign was Powerful Enough to Topple the Guatemalan Government