PR Measurement in the Age of ‘Digital First’

By Bogdan Marinescu, MD and founder, Digital Trails.

How do you measure the results of a PR campaign?

This is an age-old question PR professionals and agencies have been debating over for the last few decades. A quick search using a keyword tool will show you that it is still today a burning issue, with over 800 searches a month in the UK alone:

 

*Note how I’ve chosen my title and subtitle based on the highest volume keywords.

 

How do we report back to clients? Do we use AVEs, or better, PR value because it’s three times higher? Or, even better, let’s report on reach, impressions or engagement. What about output? We’ve generated 200 pieces of coverage this year! SO WHAT?!

Naturally, it all depends on what you’ve decided the picture of success to be. For the sake of what’s to follow, let’s assume the client is an online retailer or a service provider and they use e-commerce to generate sales or their own website to generate leads and new customers.

Too many times fellow professionals and agencies struggle to demonstrate the value of their work, because they focus on output rather than outcome. Of course, you’ve generated all these pieces of shiny coverage in top tier media outlets but how has your activity benefitted the clients’ bottom line? We often let ourselves get carried away and bathe in the reflected glory of our output forgetting that, at the end of the day, most clients have a need to sell products or services and they need to generate revenue, not just parade a front page profile piece in a board meeting.

IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT PERFORMANCE PR

The performance element is all about setting SMART commercial KPIs and measuring these against your PR results. Performance PR means going beyond output and analysing the impact of your activity on the client’s business. Performance is also about demonstrating the added value of PR in commercial terms, something you’ll most certainly find hitting a soft spot with clients.

START WITH GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Tackling GA has always been the realm of SEOs, commercial marketers and often a daunting prospect for PRs. This needs to change. I’m not advocating you spend your days crunching numbers, but you can use it to gain insights into your campaigns.

A very simple way of doing so is by creating a bespoke filter in Google Analytics, that allows you to look at the entire website through the lens of the referral traffic you generate via PR. Setting up the filter looks something like this:

Once you’re up and running, you can analyse the behaviour of visits you’ve referred to your client’s website, including demographics, geolocation, behaviour, acquisition, conversions and more (such as e-commerce performance). I find the ability to track the (naturally anonymised) behaviour of the audience exposed to your clients’ PR activity extremely powerful and useful in demonstrating outcomes and ROI.

SHOW HOW PR CONTRIBUTES TO IMPROVING ORGANIC RANKINGS 

It works broadly (and put in a simplistic manner) like this:

1: Let’s assume your client is Treatwell (beauty bookings).

2: The client ranks 6th in the UK for the keyword “London spa”.

3: The keyword has a volume of 22.2 K monthly searches.

4: The 6th position will “earn” the client around 6% of the 22.2 K monthly searches, therefore a potential organic traffic of 1,332. (see a Google CTR deep-dive here).

5: One of the main differences between how high a page ranks in Google results is given by the number (and authority) of the links pointing to it (put in a basic way).

6: Media relations activity usually generates coverage (and links!), so start with this objective from the onset (if it can easily be integrated into your campaign and monitored appropriately).

7: Let’s say you launched a successful campaign that generated a tonne of coverage and links pointing to your client’s ranking page (i.e. https://www.treatwell.co.uk/places/offer-type-spa-day/in-london-uk/). That pushed the client up three positions, into third.

8: The client now has a CTR of almost 19% of that monthly traffic, meaning they’re drawing in 4,218 visits monthly.

9: You can now report on the added value of your PR activity, including traffic, conversion and revenue generation.

SHOW HOW PR CAN GENERATE IMMEDIATE REVENUE 

One element a product- or service-focused PR campaign can leverage is the affiliate marketing relationship between clients and publishers. You can take advantage of this to demonstrate how PR generates direct revenue (beyond other KPIs you set).

If a publisher is part of an affiliate network that earns a commission each time they feature products that result in sales, they will prefer those products (with adequate disclosures, of course) – at the end of the day, publishers can’t rely on advertising alone and need to diversify their revenue streams.

You can identify those publishers, either from Google Analytics or by simply looking at the types of links they include in product roundups, and then make sure they’re on your Tier 1 list.

In a recent topical campaign around Father’s Day we were able to show the client an increase in affiliate marketing revenue of £63k over May-June 2020. This revenue was generated solely from PR placements, where the publisher had included an affiliate link to the client’s product page.

We can go on and on about different tips and tricks on how we can better demonstrate to our clients the tangible results of PR activity, how we can improve reporting and make sure our objectives are aligned to those of the clients’.

The truth is, new technologies give us PR professionals countless opportunities to be more analytical, more targeted and honed on what matters and overall, better at reporting.

We only have to adopt a performance mindset.

Bogdan is the founder and Managing Director of Digital Trails, an online visibility and reputation management agency helping clients boost multi-market visibility thanks to a clever mix of PR, SEO and Content Marketing.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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