PR Reports: The essential elements of a quality PR report
Someone just rushed into your office and demanded a PR report. You've never seen this person. You don't know what a "PR campaign report" is. In the distance, sirens.
If you've been tasked with coming up with a PR report and aren't sure where to start, have no fear. This guide will teach you the basics of PR reporting, what to include in a stellar PR report, and how to share that information with the people who need it.
- What is a PR report?
- How to start a PR report
- 3 elements to include in a PR report
- How to present your data
- What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when creating a PR report?
First, what is a PR report, and what is PR reporting? Basically, if you work in public relations, at some point you are going to be asked to account for the work you do in your public relations efforts.
A PR report is essentially a document outlining your public relations efforts, metrics related to your role, and the efficacy of your campaigns. Someone is paying you. And the person who is paying you wants to know why they're paying you. Very few upper-level managers are going to accept "the fun and friends we made along the way" as a suitable indicator of a successful PR campaign.
We here at Prezly are no strangers to discussing the importance of measurement, strategy, media monitoring, analytics, and the various tools necessary to aggregate these data-y things. And PR reporting is one of the many reasons we track data and monitor those numbers.
It's not enough to simply do PR, there has to be an accounting for what has been done.
Anybody who is invested in your PR efforts should have access to regular reporting on what is being done. Folks who see the PR report may include clients who are paying you for your services, the CEO or CFO of a company you're working for, stakeholders who are invested in the company, or departmental heads or those in charge of finance and accounting.
This will vary. It could be monthly, quarterly, annually, after campaigns, or none of the above. Some clients will want frequent reporting, and some have no time or interest in micromanaging your PR efforts. If the reporting is happening too infrequently, it's difficult to course-correct. If reporting is happening too frequently, it can be hard to see trends over time.
It's a little bit confusing, but PR reports and clipping reports are different things. A clipping report is where you compile a list of brand mentions and coverage and use it as a way to track PR coverage and gauge the efficacy of campaigns. It can be distributed to higher-ups or team members as needed. It isn't the same as a full PR report, but it is still a useful and important tool. Many people will use a service (like a media monitoring service or Google Alerts or both) to assist in the clipping efforts.
Before you even open a Word document to draft your PR report, you must ask yourself one simple question: what are the goals of the business or client, and how did I work to achieve those goals? Ideally, you would have considered this question long before your PR report as the mission and goal of an agency should always be the starting point when informing a good public relations strategy.
When thinking about how you want to frame your PR report to the higher-ups, ask yourself: what are they hoping to accomplish as a brand? Is your job to increase sales, grow awareness, build community? How did your efforts in PR work to advance those goals in meaningful ways? Are they lactose intolerant? (This last one is only relevant if you are catering the PR report meeting.)
Our friend Richard Bagnall, the CEO of media measurement company CARMA, has spent many years in measurement and he really knows his stuff. It's worth watching the whole PR Roundtable with Richard because he talks in-depth about what to measure, how to measure it, and how to demonstrate the value of what you are doing in your role as a communications wizard. It's good.
Essentially, your PR report should outline and distill the work you've done and the outcomes you've accomplished. How much engagement did you generate, how many sales did you drive, and how many website views and conversions did you achieve? Whatever the goals of the company are, speak to those in tangible, practical, real-world ways.
Pro tip: if you are trying to prove the work that you've done after the fact without a robust metric tracking system in place, you might want to go back to the drawing board. It's very hard to prove the efficacy of your PR without good, hard data, and there isn't a cheese platter in the world big enough to distract from an inability to prove your worth to the people who write your checks.
This one is a no-brainer. Include the metrics that you've tracked and any relevant data to explain those metrics. It could be as simple as "how many people followed the brand on Twitter between 2012 and 2013?" to something more complicated like "how many people followed us on Twitter after we hired our social media intern Gary?" or "how many people unfollowed us on Twitter after Gary's grossly offensive typo debacle of May 2013?"
Examples of data to include:
- Website traffic
- Social media engagement (shares, likes, followers, reposts)
- Share of voice
- Media coverage (who is talking about your brand and where)
- Sales conversions
Read this cool article on more essential metrics and KPIs to keep track of for inspiration. You really can't go wrong with what data you choose to track, as long as the metrics are directly related to the corporate goals you're trying to achieve.
Spreadsheets and graphics, while incredibly fun, don't often tell a standalone narrative. As the PR, it's your responsibility to explain how the data tract has gotten the company closer to the pre-defined goals.
This is where the concept of PR reporting gets tricky. Brand recognition, advertising, relationship building, media engagement, press releases, coverage, and all of those PR things can seem somewhat ephemeral and complicated to track. Sure, your brand may have gotten into the Washington Post, but how much did that coverage actually gain new customers, subscribers, fans? Did anything actually come from the coverage?
Proving the value and efficacy of PR reporting can be a daunting task, and that's why establishing a good system for not only collecting but also communicating the data is such a key element of a good PR report. Did we say it would be easy? No. But is it worth it?
Whatever you decide to measure, and however you choose to communicate that data, make sure that it goes back to the ultimate question: what are the goals of the agency and how is my work getting them closer to that goal?
What have you learned from the data? How are you adjusting your strategy or PR campaign knowing what you know now? Who amplified your content and may be open to collaborations in the future?
Knowing and communicating the data is important to a PR report, but it's crucial to have an actionable plan about what's happening next. How will you learn, grow, and develop from this information in meaningful ways?
If your quarter or campaign fell short of expectation, talk about why. And then explain what you're going to do differently. Remember, you're justifying the cost of your services. If you don't have a great reason why they're paying you or you can't easily demonstrate the value of what you've been doing, your PR report may need some tweaking. You may not be able to force a perfect outcome, but you can learn from an imperfect one.
There are plenty of ways you can present your PR reporting data. You can absolutely use a Powerpoint presentation, Excel document, or brush off that Canva Pro subscription and really put it to work.
Thankfully, if graphic design is not your passion, there are plenty of tools that you can use with built-in PR reporting functionality. Let's take a look at a few:
We previously mentioned CARMA, but they're worth mentioning again. Not only do they have many tools related to media and metrics monitoring, but they also have tools to display and present the data that has been collected.
Their whole thing is PR reporting. CoverageBook boasts an easy-to-use interface with a simple copy + paste approach to coverage reporting and analytics. You can simply drop related links into your project and they will pull a variety of fun metrics for you to show off.
Cision has a ton of PR tools, and we're a big fan. One of those tools (aptly named Cision Reporting) allows you to aggregate PR reporting data and make some fun, funky spreadsheets to distribute to all the people who need to know.
Modern communications professionals honestly can't really get away from knowing about and tracking SEO analytics. Search rankings are such an important part of getting the most eyes on your brand, so knowing at least the basics about how to use services like Moz, Ahrefs and SEMRush is a must. Thankfully, each of these services has integrated reporting tools so you can pull relevant data for your PR report straight from the service.
Read further about tools to aid in your PR reporting efforts by learning about our favorite media monitoring and tracking tools.
Here are just a few of the biggest PR reporting mistakes.
Yeah, we're harping on this little bit, but it's kind of the point of an entire PR report. If you had a specific goal in mind for your quarter or your campaign and you report on an entirely different metric, you're going to look silly. And not just silly, but unprofessional.
Don't sell yourself short. Explain how the work that you've done correlates to the progress being made. A PR report is not the time for humility.
Including things like reviews, comments, feedback, testimonials, and customer engagement is important for telling a complete story. Remember, your audience isn't made up of robots. It's tempting to think about PR in terms of the masses and reach and impressions but keep in mind that those are actual people. How are people being influenced by your PR?
A solid PR report is a fantastic way to prove your value as the PR luminary that you are. Subscribe to our ongoing Roundtable series where we pick the brains of rockstars in the communications space for even more insights and inspiration.
Published August 2022