October 09, 2019
/ by Mark Weiner
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on PRNews.com and has been republished with permission.
While existing methods for tracking reach, frequency, message penetration and sentiment continue to provide meaningful guidance for planning and continuous improvement, new supplemental approaches promise to revolutionize public relations. The spark for this uprising is attribution analysis.
For years, marketers have applied attribution analysis to assess the impact of their digital campaigns by assigning credit for every successful marketing interaction from awareness, engagement, lead acquisition to, ultimately, a successful sale. Understanding how one’s public relations activities move a prospect down the funnel is critical in today’s multi-faceted business accountability environment.
Attribution analysis applies an invisible watermark to every digital news item covering your company, brand and product. The technology follows an individual reader from the news page to your website (or your competitors’). Once on your website, the technology identifies every level of interaction: the reader focused on the "About Us" section, or they downloaded an order form or application. For e-commerce sites, one can attribute a sale to earned media content whether that story was planned or not.
Besides delivering a highly accurate, validated number of individuals that clicked on your news or feature story and engaged with your website, the underlying technology allows for another layer of demographic and firmographic information based on a robust relationship with Ad-Tech networks. As such, the communicator can describe the interested party by age, gender, annual income, net worth, education level and more.
In this example, 25% of readers earn more than $150,000 annually. If the company sells luxury cars, this may represent an opportunity for better targeting and messaging. If the company sells more modest cars, 64% of readers match the optimal target which provides affirmation that the targeting and messaging worked.
And for B2B communicators, there’s a layer of firmographic data to help you categorize the type of company employing the individual. Criteria include the industry (food services, manufacturing, telecom, etc.), size and role within the company (C-suite, SVP, manager, etc).
Rather than making traditional approaches to media analysis and evaluation obsolete, the new technology builds upon the existing foundation. A complete earned media analysis program now looks like this:
These four data sources provide the basis for expert analysts to uncover the actionable insights and strategic guidance communicators need to navigate and win. This combination of technology and talent provides communicators with the facts they need to communicate PR performance to executives and generate a positive return on PR investment by connecting public relations results to the sales funnel.
The most common applications for research and data in public relations are to assess program performance after-the-fact: The campaign is completed, and a performance report is how most communicators represent the success of their initiative. While attribution analysis represents a significant advancement for earned media evaluation, it provides invaluable guidance throughout the communications cycle:
A luxury car brand recently launched a high-performance vehicle to much media fanfare. The content analysis of traditional and social media quantified the degree to which the media viewed the new car in a positive light. Media coverage was positive across all channels but—more importantly—the attribution analysis confirmed that the number of people who clicked on the article and then proceeded to search the automaker’s website was three times more effective than Google display ads and slightly more than twice as effective when compared to Facebook ads. What is more, the people who clicked through matched the intended demographic.
In this way, public relations generated better results than digital advertising at a small fraction of the cost. What is more, the new car reviews live on the internet for any interested party to review when considering their next car purchase. Finally, the PR team shared their attribution data with marketing to enable a more holistic view of which marketing and communications elements had a particular effect on a specific audience. In this way, PR data was integrated into the company’s big data analysis to properly quantify PR’s unique contribution to sales.
Today, everyone in public relations has a real-time tool, and everyone has data. . .too much data. What PR needs now is a better way to think about the data, a more efficient way to manage the tool and the flexibility to assemble the right data at the right time. The combination of advanced technology with the talent to optimize these tools with category expertise and statistical acumen achieve the outcomes communicators need now: Actionable insights and integrable data to quantify PR’s ability to align with other business data streams to isolate PR's unique contribution to business success.
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