How to Measure Public Relations Success
Once you have set measurable public relations objectives for your law firm and executed tactics to reach your target audiences, it is time to measure the public relations success of your plan.
Think in terms of coverage, exposure, reach, placement, demand, impact, calls, leads generated and new business. Before you do anything, you need to define the measurement metrics that are right for you. The bottom line is that the metrics you choose must support your overall business goals, and your goals must define the metrics you use.
Ask the following questions:
- What were our original goals and have we succeeded in achieving them?
- What has happened as a result of our public relations?
- How can we improve our public relations in the future?
- How are we tracking the success of our public relations efforts?
Public relations measurement and evaluation are essential for determining the effectiveness or value of a strategic plan or effort. It remains the most discussed, evolving and challenging issue in the PR industry.
In the short term, PR measurement and evaluation involve assessing the success or failure of programs, strategies, activities or tactics by measuring the outputs, outtakes and/or outcomes against a predetermined set of objectives.
In the long term, PR measurement and evaluation involve assessing the success or failure of much broader efforts that were formulated to improve and enhance the relationships that attorneys and their firms maintain with key constituents.
There is no all-encompassing research tool or technique that can be relied upon to measure and evaluate public relations effectiveness. Measuring media content, for example, can give insight into how much exposure your messages received, but it cannot by itself measure whether target audiences actually saw the messages and responded to them in any way.
Tracking New Business to Its Origins
With the pressure to be competitive and retain and acquire more clients, law firms know that they must thoroughly execute their communications plans. But many do not take the time to learn where their business actually originates (not referring to the lawyer who brought in the business or signed the engagement letter, but rather, how the client got to that lawyer in the first place.)
How do you know for certain that 35 percent of your new cases came from referrals, or that the CLE your law firm hosted didn’t result in any new clients? If you don’t ask where every lead comes from (its origin), you are only doing half the job. For attorneys, this evaluation should be rather easy given that we learn how to evaluate causation early in our legal education.
Remember: There are two types of causation in the law: actual and proximate (or legal) cause. Actual cause (i.e., cause-in-fact) is determined by the “but for” test: But for the action, the result would not have happened. Stated more simply, “But for the [INSERT PR TACTIC HERE] in the XYZ matter, ABC client would not have known about our firm’s prowess in its industry.” Then there is the proximate cause which is an action that produced foreseeable consequences without other intervention.
With public relations, determining how a prospect became a client requires a number of foundational elements and/or best practice processes. Otherwise, it’s almost always a guessing game.
Consider what happens when a prospect calls your law firm. Here are a few of the scenarios:
1) General consumer client is looking for an attorney to handle a personal matter. She heard about your firm and calls the main number. Then what? Let’s say your firm has 10 practice areas and this person is seeking an estate attorney but doesn’t have a name. What happens next?
2) General consumer client from scenario 1 (above) calls the firm’s main number but knows she wants to speak with attorney Lotus Blossume because she was listed on the website as the firm’s chair of its estate practice. What happens next?
3) General counsel was referred to your corporate law firm to discuss if the firm would like to participate in an RFP for aviation litigation support. General counsel doesn’t remember the name of the attorney he should talk to. What happens next?
4) General counsel from scenario 3 above calls attorney Sivad Regnol directly because the GC was referred to Mr. Regnol by a former law school classmate. Then what?
In scenarios 1 and 3, the receptionist has to decide who will get the call. However, has the firm provided the receptionist with the requisite training to ask certain foundational questions and capture the answers? Or, has the firm left all of the information gathering responsibilities to the attorneys or their support staff?
In scenarios 2 and 4, it is up to the attorney to document how the prospective client came to the firm.
What about the prospective leads that call but don’t convert into new business? How does the firm track those opportunities and where they originated?
What if your receptionist asked how the caller heard about your firm and recorded the response in a database or the firm’s Client Relationship Management (CRM) system? What if you found out that your firm actually received 10 calls from your most recent seminar, but none were converted into clients? Then you could re-evaluate your marketing efforts. Instead of asking why your seminar didn’t generate leads, you would focus on why those 10 prospects didn’t convert into clients. Did you target the right market? If so, was there a failure somewhere between intake and closing the deal with the potential clients? And do you have systems in place to follow up with the lead and find out?
In the same situation, let’s suppose that plenty of people attended your seminar, but no prospects called your firm afterward. If your audience was well defined and your messages were on target, why did the seminar fail to make an impact? Did you ask attendees to review the seminar? If so, the answer may lie in their evaluations. If not, put your evaluation, tracking and measurement programs in place in order to determine the value of your programs. If your seminars don’t result in leads, maybe seminars are not the best way to reach your target after all – or, in the alternative, it may not be the best topic for your audience.
For example, I spent more than a year speaking at national legal conferences on the topic of social media engagement for lawyers. The programs were heavily attended, even at tracked conferences, and the evaluations were stellar. Attendees loved the content and asked tons of questions. But the phone never rang. Not a single prospect called to ask how I could support their social media efforts. What I finally determined is that it had nothing to do with the topic, the presentations, or the audience. In this case, it came down to the need. Most law firms that we were speaking to had the resources in-house to handle their own social media engagement and didn’t need to outsource the services. Ergo, no new business. The following year, I started focusing on crisis planning and training for law firms and as you can guess, the tides turned. I spoke at the same conferences to the same audiences and this time the leads came in more feverishly and a good portion of the business converted into new clients.
As you can see, failing to measure your results could leave you wasting time and money when you create and implement future marketing and public relations plans. Your investment is only of value when you track, measure and evaluate its effectiveness.
Essential Public Relations Metrics
While organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America offer great measurement resources (http://apps.prsa.org/intelligence/businesscase/measurementresources), here are just a few of the tools that can help you measure public relations success:
- Website Visitors and Referrals: It’s important to know how visitors find your website. Visitors can be categorized into four categories: owned (from your own website or direct marketing); earned (from content outside of your website such as articles or media stories); paid (from advertisements or pay-per-click/PPC); social (from social media posts).Referrals allow you to see how many new users are coming to your site and how they got there. For example, you can monitor if a referral came into the website through press mentions, social media or other websites.Google Analytics is your go-to tool to track website visitors and referrals.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Know and use your keywords in all of your public relations content. This will allow you to measure your position using tools like SEMRush or Trendkite to help you follow your position on Google. It is important to get a complete picture of PR’s digital impact from driving web traffic to influencing search engine ranking. It also is possible to rank your law firm’s media coverage and determine which articles had the greatest positive impact on your firm’s search engine ranking. You can then curate the top performing articles, share them via social media, add links to your firm’s website and share them via your firm’s direct electronic communications.
- Mentions: Mentions are what people are saying about you. To help show the effectiveness of your PR campaigns, keep track of your specific mentions and which campaigns they came through. Try setting up Google Alerts to help track every time your name is mentioned. You can set up multiple alerts for different names you would like to track (including your own!). You can also pay for various services (included below) which track and measure mentions for you.
- Engagement, Leads, and Retention: There are various ways to track target audience engagement with your law firm as a result of your public relations efforts. Engagement comes in many forms. You should be looking at social media likes, comments and shares; website queries and form completion; direct communications with your firm and its attorneys; increased media coverage and quotes as a result of thought leadership; increased new business from existing clients; new retained clients; and ongoing engagements with existing clients.
Public Relations Measurement and Monitoring Resources
There are numerous options for measuring and monitoring your public relations campaigns. Some services focus on one form of media only, such as radio, television, print or social media. Others provide more comprehensive services.
Included in this list are a number of resources that are currently available to help you monitor and measure your public relations campaigns.
- BurrellesLuce: print clipping service.
- Cision: media monitoring and measurement data.
- Critical Mention: broadcast search and monitoring data.
- IQ Media: real-time television radio monitoring and measurement.
- Meltwater: online PR and social media monitoring tool.
- Mention: social media monitoring tool.
- Nielson: television and radio measurement.
- SnapStream: television monitoring and sharing tool.
- Trendkite: online PR, social media and SEO impact monitoring tool.
Another tool which requires more of an explanation is a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system. CRM systems use computer software to track and access information about past, current, and potential clients. A CRM system provides a central database of information about people and companies that are important to the firm, including clients, prospects, referral sources, and other business contacts. The system also tracks information related to those contacts, such as activities, notes, financial information, industries, relationship attorneys, and touchpoints with the law firm. The system can also help track business development information, public relations engagement, social media engagement, pitches, requests for proposals, and referrals. Through a CRM system, client interactions can be logged, referenced, and cross-referenced by the firm.
According to Chris Fritsch, CRM success consultant and founder of CLIENTSFirst Consulting, “Reasons to use a CRM system vary by law firm because CRM systems are extremely powerful. Therefore, the key stakeholders need to determine what they want to accomplish and why. They need to understand how they can use a CRM system to improve internal and external communications and client service and, ultimately, to positively affect their bottom line.”
CRM data helps management understand where the firm’s business development, marketing, and public relations time is being spent. Understanding the relationships a firm has with its target audiences, such as current and past clients and referral sources, is only the starting point. A CRM system can provide objective data that helps the firm better manage its relationships and investments.
“Assuming the CRM data is maintained and accurate, law firms can leverage that data for business development and to understand the sales pipeline and media opportunities,” says Jasmine Trillos-Decarie, chief client service officer at Stoel Rives LLP, a Pacific Midwest “Am Law 200” law firm with a focus on energy and natural resources. She adds, “A robust CRM system tells us who the lawyers are talking to, how often they are in communication, and essentially who knows who and how they know them. It allows us to paint a picture and understand the depth of relationships in order to leverage those relationships for better client service and business development.”
CRM options for mid-sized to large and mega law firms include, but are not limited to:
- Cole Valley Software ContactEase
- LexisNexis InterAction
- OnePlace (built on the Salesforce platform)
- Thomson Reuters Business Development Premier
- Versys IntelliPad
Solo and small firms with smaller budgets can benefit from a number of non-legal-specific platforms that are cloud-based. Alternatively, some law firms use back-office platforms that have a CRM component, which can be used, to some extent, to manage and track information and interactions such as excel spreadsheets.
Information gained through a CRM system is vital to marketing and public relations because it provides data to validate the continuation of efforts or adjustments to the marketing plan. The information can also be measured and tested against program objectives, and, ultimately, it can be used to calculate your return on investment.
A good CRM system can generate multiple sales status reports, from lead tracking to new business conversion data, that are easily and quickly customized. This allows management to monitor individual attorney’s efforts, ensure that opportunities are not missed, and see that compensation for origination is fairly distributed. A CRM system should follow a new business lead from initial contact to final contract and through all phases of the client relationship.
However, at the end of the day a CRM system is only as good as the data entered. It is up to the law firm leadership to lead by example. Educate all attorneys and staff on the firm’s use of CRM, and put processes in place to manage the firm’s data so investment in a CRM system pays off.
Public Relations Measurement Lingo
Whether you engage a professional media measurement firm or try to do it yourself, here is the lingo that you need to know:
Awareness (a.k.a. Message Impact): Awareness or message impact measures awareness, attitude and behavior changes that may have resulted from your PR efforts. This is usually measured via surveys or focus groups but can be gauged through general feedback received from public relations programs if your budget is limited. Comparative studies are required to determine whether there have been any changes in audience awareness and comprehension levels. This can be accomplished through before-and-after quantitative surveys, test and control group studies, focus groups, qualitative depth attitude surveys of target audience groups, and other multivariant studies that rely on observation, participation, and attitudinal evaluation.
Comparative Ad Equivalency: The most controversial of all PR measurement tools, comparative ad equivalency, or “value for placement,” measures the financial value of the media coverage you received as a result of your public relations campaign. It literally compares what it would have cost to advertise in the same media space, whether it is print, broadcast or online. It should be noted that many public relations practitioners also believe that the actual value is much greater than the advertising cost because the credibility is much higher when the story appears as news, as opposed to paid advertising. Leaders in the PR industry encourage practitioners to use “audited data,” which is the average cost of a media purchase, as opposed to “rate card data.” One source for such information is www.sqad.com.
Competitive Analysis: For trade publicity, competitive analysis is very valuable. Review all articles in your target publications to measure the amount of coverage you have garnered vs. your competitors during the relevant time period prior to your public relations efforts. Contrast current levels of coverage with this measurement to demonstrate the heightened coverage your firm has attained due to your public relations efforts.
Leads Generated: Leads generated calculates the number of prospective client leads produced as a result of your public relations campaign. This could be the number of leads that were generated as a result of a media story, the number generated as a result of a CLE program, or any other PR tool/campaign that the firm is using in its communications arsenal.
Media Content Analysis: Media content analysis studies, tracks and analyzes the content of your public relations messages as they appear in print, television, radio and internet communications. The prime function of media content analysis is to determine whether your key messages, concepts, and themes were disseminated to others via the media. The variables considered in this analysis include the medium, the placement of your message, the mention of the attorney’s or firm’s name, the subject of the placement and the subjective value of the overall piece.
Media Coverage: Media coverage measures the number of successful placements, type of media within which the clips are found, and the audience who reads/views that media.
Media Demand: Media demand is determined by whether the media proactively responded to the press materials that you supplied. Did reporters call? Did you land interviews? Did the TV cameras roll? Over time, did the media reach out to you or your firm’s attorneys as a source for quotes?
Media Mapping: Media mapping visually demonstrates local, regional or national media placements. Create a map of the United States and use “dots” or other markers to indicate where placements have appeared. This can visually demonstrate a large number of placements overall (many dots) or a well-controlled regional placement in a localized campaign (clustered dots).
Media Reach (a.k.a. Media Exposure): Media reach measures the number of people receiving communication via the media, also known as the number of media impressions. In order to calculate print reach, determine circulation numbers for all of the publications carrying your messages. This is the raw number of subscribers who were exposed to the story. Multiply print circulation numbers by a “pass-along” rate (Pass-along rates are a measure of word-of-mouth marketing and the physical pass-along of publications from one person to another. Objects typically passed include newspapers and printed publications, email newsletters, links to online news stories, and other types of information of interest to colleagues, clients and business associates.) by a factor of 2.5 to determine the number of readers potentially exposed to your story. For some publications, the pass-along rate is much higher, however, it’s a publication-by-publication and region-by-region evaluation. Broadcast reach is determined by the number of viewers (rating) at the particular time of day that your story aired as well as the On Demand viewers after the story has originally aired. Radio reach is determined by the number of listeners. Online reach is determined by the number of unique and repeat visits as measured by tracking software.
Relationship Analysis: As partnerships and joint campaigns are effective public relations approaches, measuring the value of relationships that are built or strengthened through a campaign is a new challenge. Because the relationships are long-lasting and have the potential for future benefit and collaboration, their value goes beyond traditional publicity measures. Simple measures of immediate relationship value include event attendance, membership figures, newsletter readership, social media engagement, and analysis of each partner’s links to other influential companies, organizations, bloggers and the like. Relationship analysis is best done using a sophisticated CRM tool.
Return on Investment (ROI): ROI is traditionally associated with marketing and advertising tactics; however, we are seeing ROI discussions pop up more and more in public relations. ROI is a financial term that determines the incremental gain divided by the cost. Therefore, ROI equals the incremental gain in business divided by the invested resources multiplied by 100 percent.
Share of Voice/Share of Discussion: Share of voice or SOV (a.k.a. Share of Discussion or SOD), is the percentage one company has of the total amount of communication directed to a targeted group. Good SOV is considered a contributing factor to successful awareness campaigns. This captures and compares your firm’s positive and neutral media coverage to that of your competitors and takes into consideration the media value and tone of the coverage. This measurement also subtracts the value of negative stories, which determines the “Net Favorable Media Cost of Impressions” (NFMCI). The NFMCI is then divided by the total of all competitors to obtain the SOV/SOD percentage score. If this sounds cumbersome, it is. The good news is that there are many measurement services to help you with these determinations. One such tool is Trendkite.com.
PR Measurement Examples and New Business Conversions
When tracked and measured, it is possible to demonstrate real ROI to prove you are getting business from your work. Monitor and listen to see what your clients are doing and saying.
Blog directly linked to media coverage and new clients: As I mentioned previously in the social media chapter, one of our client’s attorneys was interviewed by Bloomberg Law as a result of a Google search that brought up a relevant blog she had published on the topic. Thereafter, the attorney was contacted by a prospective client who had read the Bloomberg Law article which was relevant to an issue the prospective client was facing.
Blog linked to Tribeca Film Festival guest attendance, participation and media coverage: Our law firm PR team ghost-wrote a blog post for Panitch Schwarze Belisario & Nadel, LLP, an intellectual property law firm, highlighting actress Hedy Lamarr’s role as an inventor who helped to lay the groundwork for the technology that powers the wireless devices we use today. Filmmakers contacted the attorney who authored the blog as part of their research for the 2017 movie, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.” After assisting the producers with their research, the attorney was invited to attend the Tribeca Film Festival and serve as a panelist along with executive producer Susan Sarandon, producer Alexandra Dean, and actress Diane Kruger.
Media outreach landed Good Morning America segment alongside Gloria Allred: When Stewart Ryan, an attorney with Philadelphia law firm Laffey, Bucci & Kent, and former prosecutor in the Bill Cosby case called Furia Rubel, we supported him with high profile litigation publicity. The agency garnered significant media coverage including an appearance on Good Morning America and the Associated Press. The combined print, broadcast and online coverage reached an audience of approximately 700 million people worth more than $6.5 million.
Media relations directly linked to new clients: Some years ago, I handled media relations for a personal injury law firm that handles cases against an international furniture manufacturer. The type of furniture in question often tips over and has severely injured or killed a number of toddlers in America. There have been recalls as a result of the product defect and since the filing of the first case, there has been media coverage spanning from Law.com and Law360.com to USA Today and Good Housekeeping magazine. As a result of the media coverage, which began years ago and continues today, the firm continues to get direct cases.
The Case for PR Measurement
Assessing the success or failure of specific public relations programs, strategies and activities and their impact on improving and enhancing your law firm’s relationships with key audiences is an important discipline.
It’s important to understand that ways to measure public relations programs continue to evolve.
Take ownership of your PR landscape in order to attract followers. And, if needed, bring in specialty PR firms to help you stay on top of trends and help you evaluate the success of your communications.
Copyright © 2019 by Gina Furia Rubel. All rights reserved.
First published in 2007 | Furia Rubel Communications, Inc.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2007941911
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