September 23, 2015
/ by Guest Contributor
Kate Finley is the founder and CEO of Belle Communications, a digital marketing and public relations agency specializing in PR, social media and content marketing for food, beverage, CPG, lifestyle, nonprofit and restaurant brands.
As public relations professionals, we know that PR measurement is essential to the success of our campaigns, budgets and client relationships. We attend webinars, dabble with Google Analytics and follow the latest blogs to learn how to move from traditional to relevant measurement. Yet, we still receive feedback from clients that, although our media coverage secured looks great, it doesn’t appear to have a tangible impact on the bottom line
So, where’s the disconnect?
If you still secretly dread questions about how to measure PR or if you feel in over your head at times, don’t lose hope. PR measurement is not only a science — it’s an art. This post will review a number of tangible opportunities to measure PR beyond traditional media impressions and advertising equivalencies (AVEs) with the goal of empowering you to feel confident and creative the next time you’re asked about measurement.
I often get asked about how to measure PR and what should be expected from PR in the form of results, especially when we meet with startups or brands who have been burned by a PR agency due to poor communication and reporting. It’s a great question and one we should be ready, able and even willing to address in detail as PR professionals. Imagine even bringing this conversation up first! Now that would be a testament to your proficiency.
The key to measuring PR tangibly and effectively is to understand the goals you must achieve. What drives sales and leads for your client? Take time to understand their sales process from target audiences and how leads are captured to the completion of a sale and follow up. How can you enhance this process and add value through PR? Here are a few examples of questions to ask as you prepare for measurement:
This list can become quite long as you look at the processes and expectations of your clients. However, you’ll eventually create a great starting list that you can customize for each current or potential client. Keep in mind, the more up front you can be about what, how and when you measure success, the easier it will be to build trust and create abundant client relationships.
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While tools like trackable links, analytics, e-commerce and promotion codes provide tangible opportunities to measure, PR’s ability to increase awareness and enhance other marketing and sales efforts comes with a wealth of added value, which can be difficult to track. I call this the ‘X Factor.’
As PR professionals, we understand the highly unpredictable nature of our industry and the tremendous groundswell that occurs when strategic, smart campaigns and long term plans are executed successfully. We still can’t measure who told their friend they read a great article in Forbes on quinoa or how the article prompted them to experiment and purchase it. These are all examples of the ‘X Factor’ at work.
This is the added value of public relations. It’s the beauty and mystery. It’s also the reason why it can be so hard to communicate PR measurement at times. It’s essential that we call attention and clearly outline exactly when, how and what we can measure while still calling attention to the ‘X Factor’ and its value.
While PR can and often does increase sales and build leads, it can be difficult to track exactly how someone heard about a product or service before purchasing. This is especially true considering it typically takes multiple brand exposures before a decision to purchase is made.
Although there are additional opportunities to measure PR based on the unique goals of a campaign or client needs, I typically find that measurement opportunities can be categorized within the goal to generate awareness, build leads into the following categories. It’s also important to note PR measurement can be evaluated in a variety of ways dependent on whether you are working with a product, service, brand or individual. Here are some examples of how we most often measure PR for our clients:
1.) Media coverage opportunities secured and completed
2.) Social media following and engagement
3.) Influencer chatter
4.) Website traffic
5.) Blog traffic
6.) Event attendance
7.) Brand ambassadors secured
8.) Email opt-ins
9.) Requests for ‘More Information’
10.) Leads generated specific to sales team needs
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11.) Online sales
12.) Distribution gains
13.) Repeat purchases
14.) Purchase frequency
15.) Check average / more robust sales
16.) New partnerships / investors secured
17.) Barriers to entry (decrease)
18.) Lead acquisition time (decrease)
19.) Campaign or launch success comparisons
20.) YOY (year-over-year) PR results secured
Even with dozens of tangible opportunities for measurement, public relations should not be relied on as a consistent or sole sales driver. Unfortunately, we often have to remind clients of this and draw attention to how and when PR efforts can be measured back to sales.
There will always be an ‘X Factor’ in PR, which is why it’s vital to set clear expectations at the beginning of client relationships and campaigns as to what, how and when PR strategy and tactics can and will be measured. Communicate the frequency and method in which results are reported and be transparent about what can and cannot be measured. Do this, and you will see your PR clients and team partner in more results-centric, transparent and successful work together. You’ll also be armed and ready with answers and outcomes the next time you’re asked about PR measurement.
I’m curious to hear what additional measurement opportunities you see and use within public relations. From a brand perspective, what do you wish your PR partner would measure or communicate? What would you add to the above list?
Through Belle Communications, Kate and her team have secured more than 400MM media impressions and 2,500 coverage opportunities for more than 50 brands, including coverage with WSJ, TODAY, O Magazine, PEOPLE, GMA, Fox & Friends, CNN and more.
Images: redjar, Ken Teegardin, Rob, 401(K) 2012 (Creative Commons)
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