Did It Work? How to Measure Your PR Success

This guest post comes to us from Monique Trottier of Internet marketing strategists Boxcar Marketing.

Does it work?
(Photo – Flickr Creative Commons: Felixe)

A professionally written press release that is well optimized for the social web is only one factor in managing a successful PR campaign. What matters most to your business is not solely the fact that your press release received 1 million impressions or 1,000 media pickups but whether the results met your business objectives. Did the coverage result in actual revenue or increased brand awareness? Did your content resonate with its intended audience?

The beauty of Web 2.0 tools is that PR professionals can define business objectives from the outset, measure the results, and then use those results to improve future campaigns.

Measuring Beyond Impressions

Impressions are the number of times the title of your release appeared in a feed or web page, as trackable by PRWeb.

Although this number is important, successful PR professionals know that they must look to web analytics for a more complete picture.

If you have optimized your press release with search optimized headlines, hyperlinks, and embeddable multimedia the following questions can help track the success of your press release:

  • Website Traffic: Since an optimized release includes hyperlinks, is there a spike in web traffic to those pages?
  • How many inbound links are received from PRWeb?
  • Is there an overall increase in referral links post-release?
  • Where do those referrals come from, i.e., which blogs or websites are sending traffic to the site?
  • Which of those sites capture lots of attention and also cause people to convert onsite (conversions may be defined as newsletter sign ups, friending on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, RSS subscribers, ecommerce sales, form completions or downloads)?
  • Does the ratio of new to repeat visitors change post-release?
  • What is the ratio of repeat to total visitors? (Are people coming back time and again?)

In cases where analytics data is not available, partial traffic data can be acquired by using Advanced Operators in Google Search. For example, type link:your-site.com to see the number of incoming links to a URL. Remember to track pre-release and post-release so you have comparable data points.

Measuring Beyond Online Pickups

Online pickups are the number of websites that picked up the story.

PR professionals have traditionally been interested in pickups (or media hits) because they are an easy, self-explanatory metric that can be used to compare campaigns over time.

Nevertheless, online PR requires more than just sending out a press release. Journalists, bloggers, consumers and analysts are more likely to interact with PR professionals who actively participate online, providing authentic, newsworthy content and relevant ways to connect and share the story. These interactions can be measured in various ways.

  • Conversions: If one of your conversion metrics is RSS subscribers, you can see the number of subscribers as reported by Google Reader or Bloglines. (Those numbers are specific to the reader, for example Google Reader only reports the number of RSS subscribers who are using Google Reader).
  • Friending: Facebook fans and Twitter followers are easily measured by tracking follower or fan numbers on profile pages before and after the release.
  • Awareness: The number of brand-specific searches pre- and post-release date can be tracked using Google Trends.
  • Referrals & Mentions: Google Alerts can be used to monitor mentions of the release and Yahoo! Pipes (such as the Social Media Firehose) can track brand or product mentions across social media. Plus, advanced Twitter search and tools such as Hootsuite can be used to track content resonance (retweets or shared content), which are indicators of interest or support.

PR professionals who require insight beyond what is provided by free tools should invest in social media monitoring services such as those provided by Vocus. Using the Vocus system along with Google Analytics can help provide a more complete picture of your PR campaigns.

Regardless of your tool selection, success is more likely, and more readily understood, when you to define your business objectives in advance of writing your press release. In this way, you will understand what you want to accomplish and how you can measure success.

Whether you are a small business owner providing your own PR or a PR professional, the ultimate measure of performance is being able to answer “Did it work?”

Boxcar Marketing is an internet marketing company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. You can read more great info on internet marketing and PR on their blog.