How Measuring PR in Equivalent Ad Space Metrics is a Fool’s Errand

Recently, I received a question from a colleague with an interesting question about a campaign they were running. A local hospital needed some help with their clipping service. My friend’s question was how exactly to calculate the true PR value of a mention.

If this hospital (let’s call them St. Benedict’s Mercy Hospital) gets a mention in an article, but not the MAIN topic of the article, how much is that worth? Do they get credit for the column inch value or do they simply get a percentage value?

Well, it turns out the answer is a little more complicated than that.


Obviously, as St. Benedict’s Mercy received a mention in the article, it needs to be counted. The mention led to exposure and visibility, which is the whole point of getting your name in an article in the first place.

However, I believe the initial question has a bit of a problem. While public relations and advertising often get grouped together, they are in fact very different fields. And what I think my friend did here was to combine the two. She was trying to measure St. Benedict’s mention in terms of advertising, and that just doesn’t work with PR.

Why? Because while advertising can really be quantified by how much money can be made off a particular number of inches in a newspaper, public relations is an entirely different animal. How do you measure an increased sense of goodwill in the community? How do you calculate new sales made from positive word of mouth from a revitalized customer service campaign? Simply, it’s not readily feasible.

How to Measure

The way I see it, there are three categorizations you should place your clients’ mentions. These are positive mentions, negative mentions, and neutral mentions. Your main goal should be to increase positive mentions while attempting to address every negative mention in some fashion. If you succeed in doing this, it can lead to greater things for your company that are tough to calculate in dollar amounts.

If you attempt to further categorize mentions, such as percentage of an article devoted to St. Benedict’s Mercy or impact on sales, then you run the risk of streamlining and dehumanizing your public relations. And considering the industry is based on that first word, “public,” that could easily bring about the downfall of your entire campaign.

Do you see any value in measuring your PR the same way as advertising?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab three free ebooks, including the Big Press Release Book and Twitter Tactics, here:

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