Again and again, I see PR pros boasting about the “reach” of their campaigns. And again and again, I see our industry’s awards reinforcing this metric.
Yet, when is the last time your board asked you about the reach of a campaign? (And while I’m on my soapbox, social media marketers are just as guilty of using this inflated metric.)
Impressions, or the potential reach of your article/post/message, are meaningless if those people don’t actually see your brand–or even better–take action based on your message. So as PR professionals, what can we, and should we, measure? How do we find a balance between valueless impressions and the holy grail of closed sales or customer lifetime value?
While your actual measurement mix should depend on your company’s specific goals, here are a few ideas to get you started.
PR measurement in an integrated world
The average buyer’s journey includes upwards of 20 touchpoints—and sometimes hundreds. PR alone is not enough to win over today’s discerning buyers. Nor is advertising. Nor social media. Nor email marketing. These channels all influence each other—and buyers—to ultimately propel action from your prospects.
So, instead of looking solely at the outputs of PR (number of placements, impressions or even share of voice), it’s important to look at the influence of PR on your company’s entire marketing program.
Here are three ways to measure PR’s influence vs. output:
1. SEO impact. Organic search is typically one of the top drivers of website traffic and conversions. In fact, 53% of trackable website traffic tends to come from organic search. And smart PR pros know how to tailor their efforts to maximize the SEO value of media coverage with keywords and backlinks.
That’s why SEO metrics like website traffic/conversions from organic search, number of backlinks and domain authority are important to watch and can be a key indicator of PR’s impact.
2. Email marketing performance. If your company isn’t leveraging media coverage in newsletters, sales emails and nurture programs, then you’re missing an opportunity to get this key third-party validation in front of your hottest prospects. Once you are taking advantage of this PR amplification channel, be sure you’re measuring it by looking at the click-through rate of media coverage vs. other links and the conversion rate of nurture and sales messages that link to coverage.
3. Website traffic. In an ideal PR world, every piece of media coverage secured would have a backlink so that we could directly attribute website traffic and conversions to specific articles. But we don’t work in this ideal world.
For various reasons, publications often choose not to include backlinks, especially to vendor websites. And even if they all did, it wouldn’t help us track people that look for brands days, or even weeks, later. So, while we certainly should be looking at traffic and conversions from media links, we should also look at overall traffic trends following media campaigns to identify upticks and changes in traffic sources. Also, consider adding a “where did you hear about us” question to webforms with media as an option to better quantify these indirect conversions.
PR is not a magic bullet that works in a silo to fill your pipeline with leads. Even a top-tier feature article is rarely going to equate to hundreds of prospects requesting a demo. That’s why it’s critical to view PR’s impact not through a single lens, but from a panoramic view that incorporates the multiple marketing channels that PR influences.
Renee Spurlin is executive vice president with ARPR.