Demonstrating the ROI of PR has always been a sticking point for our industry. There are too many false metrics, such as “advertising equivalent value,” that are the established norm.
Thankfully we are now in a digital age, so PR is much more tangible and measuring outcomes a lot less challenging, so why is it that many PR professionals still fail to grasp the measurement needle with both hands?
For 99 percent of clients, the biggest data set for evaluation purposes is their website, Google Analytics being the starting point.
Here is a quick look at ways in which professionals can raise the bar of PR measurement.
How can you measure reputation with Google Analytics?
Reputations take a lifetime to build and a mere moment to destroy. Quite rightly, the C-suite is obsessed with reputation and its impact on the market value of a business. PR professionals have been tackling reputation issues for years.
Although expensive quantitative market research can help track reputation, attribution back to our PR efforts has been difficult. Sometimes, just getting clients to pay for the research has been impossible.
Though not the perfect solution, Google Analytics is a great place to start to look at metrics that are driven by reputation. For example media coverage, both good and bad, will send branded traffic to a site via organic search—but a happy, engaged audience will behave differently when on the site.
Your coverage might contain links and will send referral traffic, and your social media activity will also drive traffic to the site. By using annotations, advanced segments, goals and e-commerce tracking we can start to see whether offsite activity is having an impact.
Where to start?
Most PR people are often initially interested in just how much more traffic their PR activity has driven to site.
Using Google Analytics we can go much further than simply measuring traffic; we can also measure onsite engagement, leads, and sales.
Focus on outcomes
Don’t get into “data porn”—pretty graphs that look impressive but offer no meaningful insight that you can act upon.
The classic example is the client PR activity report that explains with great enthusiasm exactly how many more followers or Facebook “likes” an organization has gained. Instead, try to prove the value of these social media nods.
It is quite easy to send hundreds of thousands of unique users from social sites, but focus instead on relevant traffic that matters—traffic that converts
Dashboards, goals, and conversions
Dashboards are especially great if you want to share live information with a client who doesn’t have much knowledge of analytics.
I won’t bother explaining how to set one up. Just read this blog
from the amazing Cutroni.
Before setting up a dashboard, you really must understand the basics of conversions.
Goals can be:
• How many people reach a designated page (such as a thank-you page after a form has been completed.)
• How many people stay on a site for a specified minimum amount of time.
• How many people have viewed a specified minimum of pages on a website.
• How many people have triggered an event (such as watching a video).
(For more, read this post
from Wordpress SEO expert Yoast.)
If your client is an e-commerce business, the chances are good that the people there have already set up e-commerce tracking, so make sure you get access to this data. Putting a cash value on sales, and even goals, makes your measurement efforts all the more understandable at the board level.
The challenge is attribution
In a multi-channel world how do you attribute spike outcomes to PR? With great difficulty, I assure you.
It’s not just a problem for PR. Even the seemingly transparent pay per click (PPC) experts can’t attribute all the efforts. For example, if a PPC person is bidding on a client’s brand name, who claims the revenue? Is it the work of the PPC expert, or is it the PR person who drove the branded traffic to the advertisement? After all, someone read a PR-generated article, Googled the brand, and then clicked the PPC ad. We should be claiming this as a PR outcome.
Attribution is where you really need to read up, roll your sleeves up, and get your hands dirty. Search for great blogs about setting dashboards, advanced segments, funnels, regular expression goals, assigning value, first visit attribution, and a whole new world of big data.
Don’t be put off; just get involved
Don’t leave measurement as a specialty for analytics geeks. Everyone within your PR team should understand the objectives and how to measure them.
My associates at PR Agency One
all have analytics accounts and cut their teeth providing reports based on our website’s analytics.
[RELATED: Link creative communications to the goals of your organization with this one-day workshop.]
We provide training on analytics both using in-house expertise and third-party experts. Some people enjoy analytics; others don’t. We tend to work with those who are willing to learn and develop their careers using data.
Learn by playing.
James Crawford is the managing director of PR Agency One, a B2B and consumer PR firm with a specialism in SEO.
Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @jamescrawford.