PR marketplace AirPR recently launched Analyst, an analytics service for companies that measures the effectiveness of their public relations campaigns.

It’s not often we see tech-related developments in the oft-maligned PR industry, so we chatted with co-founder Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer to learn more about its efforts to put big data to work for publicists and CMOs.

Fouladgar-Mercer came up with the idea for AirPR while working as a VC. He previously served as Entrepreneur in Residence at Shasta Ventures and as Senior Associate at Sierra Ventures. During his time as an investor, he found that startups often had a hard time seeing the value in (and finding) good PR resources.

After noticing the problem, Fouladgar-Mercer found that there weren’t many people interested in solving it:

You have a situation where no technologists or engineers wake up in the morning and want to solve a problem in the PR space. You have a totally separate industry that is analogous to this, the advertising space, that has had a bunch of innovations, really impressive innovation.

One of the key difficulties for PR firms and internal teams has been the lack of tools to effectively measure return on investment (ROI).  The industry used to lean on a metric called “advertising value equivalency,” which simply calculates media coverage at the outlet’s advertising rate, but the figure has since fallen out of favor.

AirPR’s Analyst is designed to shake things up by providing analytics that track PR activity all the way back to revenue impact. The company claims it’s the first to market with the solution. Companies like Vocus and Cision offer media monitoring for impressions, but they lack the granular data that AirPR provides.

The product takes 30 minutes to set up and integrates with existing analytics providers. It also lets businesses track their top two competitors to monitor what kind of media coverage they’re receiving. Analyst features a real-time web crawler that can sift through spam mentions to find legitimate news articles.

AirPR acknowledges that publicists bring value to the table beyond just media mentions – such as crisis management, relationships, and other intangible benefits. However, Analyst is interested in measuring how a company’s digital, and eventually broadcast, footprint is affected by a campaign.

Producing quantitative results with largely qualitative data is a monumental task for AirPR, but at least it doesn’t have many rivals in the PR tech space. If Analyst succeeds, companies will have a better sense of user acquisition costs as they relate to PR actions and CMOs and PR firms will have an easier time justifying their budgets when vying with advertising departments for dollars.

Image credit: Deyan Georgiev / Shutterstock