Successful brands put a lot of thought into their messaging: what to say, how to deliver those messages and through which channels, and how to evolve them over time. Key messages and sound bites are the essence of what you wish to communicate, serving as the foundation of your communications strategy and giving it focus and control.
While the right messages can shape what you want your audiences to consider, and more importantly what they do, communications comes down to what the reader perceives.
That’s why it’s not enough to simply track whether or not your sound bites are being picked up in the media. Today, we need to understand how they drive behavior.
Message pull-through tracking is a good indication of how successful your media relations efforts are in getting a journalist to use your language. But just because your sound bites appeared in an article does not mean that they drove any kind of impact for your business—and even if they did, message pull-through would not reveal which of those sound bites were the most effective. This leaves most PR pros without the ability to optimize their message strategy and thereby unable to improve their performance.
This is where we can borrow some ideas from our brethren in marketing, specifically the search engine optimization (SEO) team. Why? Because SEO practitioners are remarkably similar in their focus on key messages. SEO teams call them keywords. PR teams call them sound bites. Both teams are essentially in the business of delivering their messages in a way that resonates.
However, there is one big difference between how these two functions have historically operated. Thanks to a number of advancements in data and technology over the years, SEO practitioners use a wide range of insights around the complete performance of their keywords and messages. Simply understanding if and how their keywords have been delivered (i.e. message pull-through) is not enough. The sophisticated marketer looks well past the basic delivery of their message and mostly focuses on the response to each keyword and which business outcomes they drove.
Until recently, PR teams have not had the luxury of this kind of information and have relied solely on basic pull-through metrics. Fortunately, the technology now exists for us to evaluate our sound bites based on how they move our audience through the purchase funnel. For example, which messages created social media engagement for my brand? Which drove potential customers back to my website? Which led to website actions and conversions?
This data provides insights into how the media, influencers and ultimately customers are responding to and amplifying your messages, messages that can then be used to inform future marketing and public relations activities, owned media content creation and speaking opportunities.
Keyword insights can now be shared across the various communications and marketing teams since they reveal the psychology of your audience and help you make the leap from “what a customer should know about your brand” and “how a customer searches based on how they think and what they already know.” When your digital marketing and PR efforts match the “search thinking” of your customers, your ability to see a return on your efforts increases exponentially.
Here are a few tips to help your messaging stick:
- Track sound bites for a company, brand or spokesperson based on what is resonating with the media, customers and other stakeholders to shape marketing, thought leadership and PR strategies for greater impact.
- Track sound bites for a specific product to identify if you’re over indexing on specific product mentions or one product benefit over another.
- Track crisis-specific sound bite performance over time to understand their ongoing impact on your brand reputation.
- A/B test your key messages based on social media engagement, website traffic and website conversions.
- Create earned, owned and paid media campaigns based on sound bite performance.
- Collaborate with other teams, including product, human resources and marketing, to help them incorporate the winning messages into their SEO, social media email marketing and brand website strategies.
In today’s overcrowded media environment it is more important than ever to leverage every piece of data you have in order to cut through the noise and increase your “signal.” Understanding what messages are actually driving behavior is a key part of connecting the dots and making important business decisions.
Sean O’Neal is president of Onclusive.