Size isn’t everything when it comes to PR success – so be sure you measure what matters

by Chris Fairbairn

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Put away the ruler and find a public relations agency which focuses on the right results

Through-The-Keyhole-LogoWelcome to our essential business guide into the inner workings of a PR agency. In this post we explore what happens after that media coverage has poured in – and how to measure and evaluate success.

How tomeasure the success of public relationsTIME was in public relations that bragging rights went to whoever could prove they had the most inches. Column inches, that is.

Until recently it was that simple. Size mattered. Success was calculated by working out how much space your PR earned in a newspaper or magazine, then calculating how much it would cost to buy that same space as an advertiser.

But times have changed and that figure (it’s called Advertising Value Equivalent, AVE), while still useful for some clients, is no longer a good enough benchmark of success on its own. In fact, the great and the good in the PR sector have disowned the humble AVE.

This is great news for businesses, because it means PR agencies should now be working much harder to find metrics that are tied closely to your actual business success – most notably your bottom line.

So when it comes to this kind of complicated number-crunching, how can we be so confident that we really are delivering superb value for our clients’ money?PR agency Holyrood PR collected a gold award for best use of PR measurement and evaluation in 2013

Well, now that the size thing is out of the way, we can say that it’s all in the technique. Certainly we’re the only PR agency in Scotland to have won an award for that technique from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, recognising our excellence in measuring and evaluating PR success.

So in this wee peek behind the scenes of how things work in our public relations agency, here’s an insight into what we do to make this work – in this instance specifically in terms of media coverage.Our first and most important job every day is to monitor for mentions of our clients in the news media – that includes newspapers, news websites, blogs, specialist trade publications (in print and online) and of course in TV and radio broadcasts.

The biggest clients will already employ specialist media monitoring companies. However, most clients rely on us to track their mentions. To do that we keep in touch with journalists we’ve been working with who often let us know when articles are due to appear. We also use various online alerts and use specialist software which gives us access to the main media databases.

Scattered NewspapersFinally – and most importantly – we spend each day reading through the main Scottish newspapers. That way we not only find mentions our our clients, but we keep right on top of the daily news agenda and emerging themes.

When we have collated all that coverage there comes the job of measuring and evaluating it. That can include:

  • Tracking exactly how often your Key Messages are used in your target publications
  • Reporting how many times readers and viewers have had a chance to see your messages
  • Providing basic sentiment scoring of coverage.

Beyond that, we work with clients to agree measurable and realistic objectives within their budgets and other resources. Those can be as different as imaginable.

For example a relatively simple metric is to monitor the number of visits to a website generated as a result of PR activity. Also possible – but far more difficult – is to establish complex conversion funnel which measure the exact value of every click.

Likewise if a client is dealing with a challenging planning issue, it can be relatively straightforward to agree basic targets on positive media coverage. But it’s far more demanding to establish how that PR activity impacted on public sentiment or to work out how it measurably increased public messages of support.

Elsewhere we’ve demonstrated to clients how public relations has helped measurably build brand awareness, ensured events and seminars are sold out and ultimately proved that PR activity has helped increase sales for client as diverse as corporate caterers to energy efficiency.


Check out the other posts in our Through the Keyhole guide to the inner working of a PR agency

CLIENT ENGAGEMENT – Public relations success is all about you. That means you have to be involved, from regular meetings and agreeing Key Messages to sign-off procedures.


THE STORY TELLING PROCESS – An at-a-glance guide on how to find the right story hook, how to write it for the right audience and the importance of visual story-telling for the digital era.


CREATIVITY – Don’t be blinkered by the concept of ‘one big idea’ for your PR campaign. We’ll demonstrate how real creative public relations happens with the small stuff every single day.


THE PITCH PROCESS – Life’s a pitch – from the TV antics on Dragons Den to making the case to your boss for a pay rise. We explain how PR pitching is one of the most vital ingredients in your success. 


How can our Edinburgh public relations agency help your business?

Anybody who makes and investment is looking for a worthwhile return. We hope this short guide demonstrates how we work with clients to make sure they get that return on investment (ROI) from their public relations activity.

We can help you enjoy those kind of business benefits. If you’d like to find out more about our PR services, including media relations, PR photography and PR video, we’d love to hear from you.

You can contact us on 0131 561 2244 or fill out the simple form below and we’ll get straight back to you.

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    Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

    Chris Fairbairn

    Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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