Trends of the Trade is a monthly column written by WWPR member Cory Churches exploring, well, trends in PR.  She can be reached at

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Washington Women in Public Relations

How often does management ask how your marketing and social media outreach efforts are paying off? Everyone wants to know what the return on investment or ROI is on PR and communication efforts. It’s the holy grail of metrics. Earned media requires flexibility, building relationships, input, action, and reaction. It takes time and energy and the effect isn’t always immediately evident. Providing a rock solid number of hits, views, tweets and re-tweets to justify investment in time and money is an enormous challenge in any organization.

If your company has developed a well articulated communications plan, drawing a line from corporate goals to messages and outcomes will be easier. Ideally, measurement is part of the planning process. Successful outcomes are defined while goals and messages are being shaped and solidified. In order to properly measure your success, you need to define success up front.

Instead of measuring views, Facebook likes, and web traffic, why not measure actions? Actions do speak louder than words. What will prompt your stakeholders to take action? If they recommend your product or company, wouldn’t you want to know what action became of that recommendation?

In an information void, people want numbers. In today’s technology driven world, there’s an onslaught of tools to measure everything from Facebook reach and share of voice to Twitter followers and web traffic. But what does that information really tell you? It’s important to have a clear understanding of the value of the measurement as compared to the objective. If you are clear about where you’re going, it’s easier to measure your progress. The trick is to start with the business objective and then ‘bridge’ to the transactional metrics, which are easy to track, to drive business outcomes. Figure out what a successful outcome looks like and measuring it becomes much easier.