Nov 21, 2018 / in Comms Best Practices / by Tony Hardman

Earned media and PR are essential to building a brand, growing revenue and avoiding large cost issues, but leaders haven’t traditionally measured their work with success. For PR pros, metrics like impressions, likes and shares have been easier to measure versus the more difficult to quantify leads generated, shopping cart conversions and sales won. These latter few are the most meaningful measures of business impact for earned media, leading to a lack in confidence for PR’s ability to communicate ROI. For instance, 70 percent of B2B marketers would shift more of their budgets to PR if it could be related to financial impact.  

Fortunately, technological advances now enable public relations to quantify digital public relations. According to the 2018 Global Comms Report: Challenges and Trends,16 percent of comms leaders devote at least 20 percent of their annual budgets to measurement, a five percent increase since last year’s survey. This is proof that companies are more devoted than ever to measurement, monitoring and analytics, which extend holistically to include earned media, and PR specifically.

So how are PR professionals measuring their efforts now? What are the tools and skills involved? Successful PR pros have both the aptitude and software to facilitate supplemental approaches in order to contribute to relevant business objectives. Following are some of the specifics.

Cross Discipline PR

It is increasingly important to work cross functionally in our data-driven world today.

This means successful PR pros are traditionally skilled but are also eager to work with data to effectively breakdown new insights. They are observing communication results in real time, quickly sifting through to find the most useful bits of actionable information. Overall PR now must have the statistical intelligence to quantify its impact to the general goals of the organization.

Marketing-Comms Relationship

Successful PR pros measure their efforts, but modern communicators do so in coordination with marketing and sales. It is now crucial to have an integrated relationship with other departments due to the fact that data covers a large swath of each — making it less feasible for one group to exist in isolation.

Social media creates many content streams running at the same time, which can be responsible for any given reaction from consumers. Therefore PR’s ability to generate accurate numbers that relate to business goals depends on interdependency. This is proven as 43 percent of B2B marketers would shift more of their budgets to earned media if it were better integrated with other channels. Cision’s Communication Cloud® helps do just that by displaying all data in one place. This is good news for everyone, but especially comms professionals who work with earned media because True Measurement finally gives them a chance to be part of the marketing pie.

Attribution Analysis

PR pros are aware of their value to the org as a whole but giving evidence for that value is difficult. Still today only about half of PR pros have data that gives them a strong sense of whether or not there was any real-world behavior driven from the content. Fortunately, attribution analysis is a method that works to effectively synthesize earned media data that was not previously measureable.

This software includes an invisible watermark on every digital news item covering a company, brand and/or product. The mark is permanent and follows individual readers from news page to website while identifying each level of interaction. For example, if the reader spends time on an article then downloads a form from the related brand website previously mentioned, that trail of action is recorded.

This software also makes it possible to confirm engagement with total certainty. Further, valid info is recorded from the consumer’s IP address. This includes important demographic and firmographic info such as age, gender, annual income and education level, or company size and revenue. PR pros are then able to utilize this info in order to better reach target audiences. True measurement via attribution connects PR directly to objectives in the sales funnel, thus making PR relevant to the organization as a whole.  

Integration and Earned Media Management

Attribution analysis is a crucial new method, but still needs to be integrated with the existing comms foundation, which has traditionally benefited from qualitative measures such as sentiment and reputation with influencers/spokespeople. Successful PR Pros keep what they know in mind while furthering new Earned Media Management solutions. This means using attribution to improve storytelling as a whole. Data is gathered from video plays, image views, document opens, and downloads. Digital earned media clicks and clicks-through are also monitored.

All of these metrics enable pros to look at the overall landscape and tailor their efforts to what will be most effective for their brand. It also puts the focus on the audience rather than initially focusing on influencers and journalists. This helps maintain a continuous and targeted approach towards consumers and their interactions, which are ultimately most important to the business.

Communications Cycle and Beyond

With the ability to determine metrics like lead generation and conversions from earned media, attribution is invaluable to PR pros today. They can use this data to assess after campaigns, or even develop monthly and quarterly reviews. Using this new technology and methodology to discover and organize metrics, determines communications professionals importance to the communications cycle as a whole. They can finally embrace storytelling while proving its impact on business objectives.

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About Tony Hardman

Anthony Hardman is a senior content editor for Cision. He has more than 10 years of combined experience in broadcast news, public relations, inbound and content marketing. Connect with him on Twitter: @ahardman or LinkedIn.