6 Unconventional Metrics for Measuring PR Results

If you’re an early-stage B2B startup founder or marketer trying to make the case for PR, you might decide to do some Googling to learn how to measure it.

But spend a few minutes clicking around, and you’ll quickly realize that every article about PR ROI is irrelevant to your situation and / or complete BS.

Once you peel back the layers, you’ll find that each of these articles (and yes, even my own post on this subject) spends little time talking about quantifiable PR ROI (“this caused that”). Instead, they quickly divert attention to other less specific ways to measure PR impact.

But that’s OK! Qualitative value is still meaningful!

When looked at as a whole, qualitative measurement can give you a good understanding of the value of PR.

So if you’re looking for budget to start a communications program – or seeking to convince your CFO to retain a program during a cash crunch – here are six non-traditional ways to measure PR’s value and usefulness.

1. Did PR Help Us Establish Leadership Over Our Competition?

If your competitors were getting media attention, putting out great thought leadership, winning awards, and speaking at important industry events – and your startup was invisible and silent – would you feel like it was falling behind?

How could you not?

It’s hard to put a dollar figure on the risk of “falling behind,” but as the old saying goes: “No one got fired for hiring IBM.” Smart comms can make you the IBM, the safe choice. And rest assured: if you don’t invest in smart comms, your competitors will.

2. Did PR Drive Revenue?

Edelman puts out regular research on the power of trust in B2B sales. In their most recent report, they found that three out of four B2B buyers value thought leadership content as being more trustworthy than traditional sales materials.

Simply giving your sales team access to your own thought leadership – contributed articles, speaking opportunities, podcast interviews, etc. – will make them more successful because their prospects will consider them more trustworthy.

And it gets better. Strong PR can improve your pricing power. According to Edelman’s research, nine out of 10 B2B buyers said they’d pay higher prices for companies who demonstrated strong thought leadership.

Even with Edelman’s research, it may sound like a stretch to claim that PR can improve pricing power. But what’s easier: selling as a brand-new, never-heard-of startup or selling as a recognizable startup with tons of momentum and visible success?

The latter.

And when selling is easier, pricing power improves.

3. Did PR Create a Flywheel Effect?

I once had a client ask:

“As startups grow, it seems their PR fees always go up. But once a startup is well known, it’s easier to get attention, so shouldn’t fees go down?”

There are a variety of reasons that the answer to that (horrifying) question is a hard “no” (among them: as your profile becomes stronger you’ll have more opportunities, and with more opportunities comes more work, more vetting, more risk, more competition, etc.). But there is a kernel of truth to it.

That kernel of truth is the “PR flywheel.” PR, when done well and consistently over time, creates a flywheel that generates new opportunities with little prompting and increases the productivity of all future PR efforts.

For an imperfect analogy, you can look at it as compounding interest: A dollar invested every year for five years will deliver a greater return than $5 invested in a single year (apologies to Warren Buffett).

4. Did PR Show Our Momentum?

The best startups are constantly executing but much of their work is behind the scenes. Sure, they may have had a burst of media coverage around a funding announcement. But other than that, many are quite silent, and silence can lead the market to ask: “I wonder what happened to….”

That is not a good place to be!

Beyond the occasional press release, PR wins demonstrate momentum even when you have no news. Contributing articles, getting product reviews, speaking at events, being on podcasts, winning awards, and so on all communicate to the market that you are operating at a high level.

This momentum can demonstrate a sense of inevitability that – in and of itself – can be a powerful motivator for customers who want to feel they’ve picked the winner.

5. Did PR Help Other Sales and Marketing Channels?

PR wins are amazing tools to leverage in other sales and marketing channels. Opportunities are limitless:

  • If you win an award, you can champion the people who made it happen on LinkedIn.
  • If you write an article in an industry publication, you can write a similar blog post with a more promotional bent.
  • If you speak at a conference, you can invite prospective customers to attend.
  • If you’re interviewed about an important topic on a podcast, you can invite the host to be featured in a webinar for your customers and prospects.
  • If you get a great product review, you can add the best excerpts to improve your landing page performance.

And so on.

6. Did PR Help Us Recruit and Retain Top Talent?

It’s not just clients that want to pick a winner. Employees do, too.

Top tech talent wants to join – and remain – with hot tech companies. PR can make your company the hot startup even before it has meaningful sales, substantial funding, or an amazing team.

As you’re hiring, think about the role that PR plays. Do you have a “best employer” award to share? Is your demonstrated thought leadership showing candidates that you’re forward thinking? Is more top talent reaching out to you directly? Are you closing the deal with more great candidates than before? Have your retention rates gone up?

All of these results can come from a successful PR program.

Think Qualitative, Not Quantitative

As a longtime B2B tech PR person, I would love nothing more than to have a number that demonstrated our value. But when you’re a B2B startup, it’s incredibly difficult to quantify the impact PR has on your success.

It’s hard to know if an article led to a sale or if it was the talent of a salesperson or the timing of the ABM effort. It’s hard to know to what degree talent is motivated by money or your momentum. It’s hard to know whether that deal you sourced at your tradeshow booth could have happened without you speaking on a panel at the same event.

But when you factor in all of the qualitative ways that PR can impact your startup, it starts getting easy to see PR’s value.