We coach out clients to explain their business to us like they’d explain it to a family member.  So, when I describe my 9-to-5 to my family, I compare PR to advertising.  Everyone knows what an ad is, right?  Maybe not.  As we’ve seen recently, between paying bloggers for good reviews, infomercials and advertorials, it’s getting harder to tell the difference between advertising and genuine 3rd party endorsements.

No place is this more clear than in the social media space.  Since it first landed on the radar of media-types, so-called social media has represented the new frontier in both advertising and PR.  In some cases, it’s a wild land-grab for incremental client work.  However, if we’ve learned anything from traditional media, there will likely be room for both PR and our advertising counterparts.

That’s why, even though the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) published these engagement metrics as a suggested standard in the advertising business, I’d argue that the majority of them have applications in PR as well.  In particular, as we continue reaching out to bloggers, posting videos to social networking sites and developing the highly lusted-after viral content, we should condition ourselves and our clients to measure effectiveness in these newly standardized terms:

  • The number of relevant actions, including newsfeed items posted, comments posted, uploads, poll votes, and so forth.
  • Conversation size, which measures the number of content relevant sites and content relevant links, and the monthly uniques spread across those conversations.
  • Site relevance, which measures the density with which phrases specific to a client concern are brought up among relevant sites.
  • Author credibility, such as how relevant the author's content is and how often it is linked to.
  • Content freshness and relevance, which defines how frequently an author posts.
  • The average number of friends among users of a specific application.
  • Number of people currently using an application.

Finally, as an industry, if our campaigns rank low in terms of these metrics, PR professionals should be committed to re-calibrating programs rather than our approach to measurement.  Experiment.  Measure.  Adjust.  Who’s with me?

– Contributed by Gretchen Bender.  Follow her @gbender26.