What is the definitive method for PR measurement?

This is the question which has dogged the PR industry since day one and historically, as a collective industry, PR has fallen behind other disciplines when proving how its activities actually benefit businesses and organisations.

From counting coverage, to measuring ABC figures, to the dreaded Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) - the first and only time we’ll mention this outdated metric - PR has struggled when it comes to measurement and reporting.

However, as business and the media continue the unstoppable shift towards online and digital platforms, tools like Google Analytics provide capable agencies with the ability to track success through real metrics, like followed links from high domain authority websites and increases in web traffic as a result of referral traffic that can be assigned to specific PR activity. Tracking this impact enables business to see the entire buyer journey from awareness and engagement to conversion and even to sales. 

Understanding Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and the importance of online visibility is now a must for any modern digital PR consultancy. Despite this, too many agencies remain slow to adapt to this change, and to adopt the necessary PR measurement techniques to provide a more transparent view of success.

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Did you know?

75% of comms professionals admit they must do a better job of measuring PR

 

Three quarters (75%) of comms professionals have admitted that they must do a better job of measuring and pricing impact on business results from their campaigns - according to a survey by Cision - and 70% say they lack the data they need to measure success effectively.

Given the amount of data and statistics available through tools like Google Analytics, it is truly staggering that so many PR professionals say they don’t have the data they need to measure the impact of campaigns.

However, every PR campaign needs certain elements to track success.

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Print vs Online - or both?

It’s a phrase said and repeated many times in the last decade - “Traditional print media is dead”. This is spurred on as advertising revenue declines and readers shift to digital platforms.

Reports of print’s demise may have been somewhat exaggerated however as there remain a plethora of print publications that have retained strong and knowledgeable readerships.

Print, or “traditional” media, is still relevant in the modern media landscape and earned media coverage in print publications should not be dismissed.

 

Targeting a feature in a print publication a few months down the line is still beneficial and keeps your brand or spokesperson in front of your desired audience - the only difference is it’s hard, beyond having your name or business brand in a headline, to judge what the business benefits of this earned media coverage has been.

Print coverage is still typically measured in a more traditional way, which makes it hard to quantify, but you can generally measure some success of a PR campaign based on the kind of print coverage you achieve in targeted publications you know your target audience reads.

The different types of earned print media coverage - Leads, Downpages and News In Brief (NIB)

LEAD

A lead story in a newspaper or magazine is usually the pinnacle of earned media coverage in print (especially if it’s a front page lead). Achieving a page lead means your likely to have more space on the page and a bigger voice within the story.

DOWNPAGE

Still a good piece of earned media coverage but found below the fold and with less space than a lead story. Getting your story placed as a downpage in a national or trade title is still a great win.

NIB

While a news in brief is still a success (any little helps) these are generally short and snappy pieces on newspages and are often sought after to fill spaces on page templates with little or no advertising. Don’t turn your nose up at a NIB, but if this is all a PR consultancy is bringing you, you should probably ask a few questions.

Get seen online

Did you know?

76% of PR and comms agencies now offer online reputation management

In the early days of digital media, getting a piece of coverage online was often assumed to be an easy win or not as challenging as getting print coverage, but as the journalism landscape has evolved to become digital first, print second - getting your coverage online is just as challenging, but has far more benefits.

The death of the traditional news cycle and the nature of 24/7 news of online means these opportunities come around a lot more, but the competition is fierce so producing an article or feature for an authoritative news website is much harder.

Getting your business featured on a website with a high domain authority with a follow link in the article is tremendously difficult, however it is also much more beneficial for your online visibility and forms a direct measurable link through SEO reporting.

Why do backlinks matter?

  • “The value of a link to your website from a major publisher can be enormous for your website’s ability to rank on page 1 of any search engine.”
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    Bob Dearsley

    CEO | ITPR

Measuring digital vs traditional PR

The last few decades have been an era of change for media and PR as online news and digital first philosophies continue to race ahead of traditional print products and planned news cycles.

While print continues to have its place, no-one is going to balk at a cover story in a respected newspaper or magazine - but the switch towards online journalism and PR is creating much more opportunity for businesses to make a measurable impact.

Much of this is driven by how we now consume media and there is no doubt that we are much more proactive in chasing the news we want to read, when we want to read it, rather than relying on tomorrow’s front page.

A recent report by comScore (“Global Digital Future in Focus 2018”) found that Google Search is now the third biggest app in UK – behind YouTube and Facebook – highlighting how audiences are now going out and searching for information rather than relying on it coming to them.

90% of B2B buyers start purchases with an online search

 

This shift towards online news has opened up opportunities for PR consultancies to prove their worth and that the campaigns they create are having a positive, measurable impact on a business’ reputation, visibility and, ultimately, their bottom line.

This is something PR has been struggling to do for a long time. To try and justify investment, PR professionals have have come up with many metrics over the years, from obscure measurements developed in house, to the always to be avoided “advertising value equivalent”.

When it comes to digital PR being able to earn backlinks to a client’s website from news websites, creative and informative blogs are a great way of improving Google rankings and is something traditional PR consultancies struggle to do.

Tools like Google Analytics mean evaluation and reporting can be much more detailed and better scrutinised and can stop your PR consultancy unjustly claiming that the work they are doing is making a difference to your business.

How to measure digital PR success

Measuring PR campaign success has always been a difficult thing to quantify, however there are some standard metrics your digital PR team should be looking at when evaluating press coverage. These are:

Domain Authority (DA)

Domain Authority is a measure (ranked from 1-100) that describes which websites have the most trusted information and are more likely to be ranked by search engines.

News websites like the BBC or the Guardian and trade specific or business titles, along with government and university websites have the highest domain authority and therefore highest value to your business, while websites with no followed links sit towards the bottom of the list.

Followed Links

An earned follow link on a news website or blog essentially acts as an “endorsement” of your website and are used by search engines to assess authoritativeness. The more followed links you earn from respected and authoritative websites the more impact your PR campaign will have on SEO and search rankings.

Marking a link as “no follow” removes this endorsement, so use a tool like MOZ Bar to check which your target website offers.

Why PR link building can be more effective for your SEO

The fact that news websites are more likely to have higher Domain Authority – and therefore more SEO value when it comes to links – having a PR consultancy that understands the latest digital tactics and measurements can be extremely effective to you wider digital strategy.

Your PR consultancy should have strong relationships with journalists in their chosen industries, and therefore a route to gaining press coverage on those high domain authority news websites. In a digital world, these connections are paramount to getting your business in front of the target audience you want to reach.

Getting valuable links through PR is not easy, and issuing a press release to a dozen outlets and expecting to see articles, bylines and links roll in will leave you disappointed - instead you need to create content which the press will want to print, and then ensure you have additional content which adds extra value which a journalist will want to link back to.

Your PR consultancy should be able to advise you on what media you should be targeting, across which channels and what kind of news or content will get the best results.

Pitching thought leadership content for both traditional PR goals and securing backlinks purposes can greatly increase the impact of a campaign. Focusing on a digital campaign is a much more effective long term communications strategy as the results have a longer lasting impact than a campaign aimed at traditional print titles.

Online media coverage will remain on the Internet forever, compare this to the short lifespan of print copy which most likely is recycled the next day.

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How to write for the media

Writing for the media can be daunting for a business, especially when your understanding of what they are looking for is unclear. Focussing on your audience, knowing what a good news story looks like, and ensuring the structure of your content meets the requirements of your target media, will get you on your way to increasing your coverage.  

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Optimising your B2B website to optimise PR success

A digital PR consultancy might be able to drive more traffic to your website with an effective media campaign, but are you doing enough to take advantage of this increase in audience share?

Digital reporting of PR is an ideal way to inform your wider online or digital marketing strategy by giving you an insight into what a visitor does once they’ve landed on your website.

By reviewing the referral traffic from news websites or blogs where your coverage is appearing you can see if a user sticks around to check out other content on your website; completes a form or downloads an eBook/ report; or if they simply view one page and then leave.

If you have a high ‘bounce rate’ (i.e. a visitor lands on your website, stays for a moment then leaves) don’t fear, as bounce rates cannot be viewed in isolation. However, if you are consistently seeing high bounce rates from your referral traffic, it could suggest that you have a problem with your website content and/or design.

 

Your website needs to be user friendly and easy to navigate to engage your visitors.

But how?

 

To build a successful website, you need to ensure that you are optimising the website for keywords your business wants to rank for, as this can also help inform your PR strategy and wider content creation.

Seeing a rise of 200% in organic traffic driven by a successful PR campaign is all well and good, but seeing most of this audience disappear after a single page visit suggests you are wasting the efforts of your PR campaign.

Even straightforward measures like optimising your H1 page headers and page titles can help boost the effectiveness of your PR campaign.

Using our own website as an example, this shows the page titles created to rank for B2B PR Agency London and Tech PR - the two elements we want to rank for.

 

Pillar Page1

 

Similarly here with this example blog, the title is optimised to rank for data-driven PR measurement so this H1 fits the bill.

 

Pillar Page 2

 

Getting these elements of your website right will then help with your digital reporting and will help show if a company’s marketing messages are relevant for search, or if they are just industry jargon that no-one is looking for – and therefore useless for an SEO and digital PR strategy.

PR Measurement using Google Analytics

As well as measuring bounce rates from the pages your PR campaign is driving audiences to, the next stage in effectively measuring your digital PR campaigns is to set up tracking goals in Google.

A key thing to establish at the beginning of any digital PR campaign, is what the goals of the campaign are and what your business is measuring as a ‘success’.

Seeing your name or your company’s name online is one thing, but what exactly is that doing for your business? Setting measurable goals should be one thing your digital PR consultancy encourages, and is something an effective consultancy can work with you to set up. But what exactly is a goal in the context of a digital PR campaign?

According to Google, a goal measures how good your site is at fulfilling your objectives, whether that’s getting visitors to download a piece of content or contacting you.

By setting up goals as part of your digital PR measurement, you can establish how well your business is doing at converting that newly acquired PR coverage into tangible business benefits.

There are four basic goal types you should look to measure as recommended by The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR):

  1. Destination goals – Getting visitors to a particular page on your site
  2. Time on site – This is one measure of an ‘engagement goal’ is pretty self-explanatory
  3. Number of pages visited per session – Another engagement goal and is a way of measuring whether your visitors are exploring your website for information or simply leaving after that initial click through
  4. Event goal -  This metric can measure the general behaviour of your visitors e.g. are they watching any videos or downloading a report?

 

Is your PR campaign reaching the right audience?

Measuring goals is an effective way of reviewing your PR consultancy performance and whether the campaign is getting your business in front of your target audience.

If you’re seeing a consistent spike in web traffic throughout a PR campaign, but little to no conversions it could suggest the audience your attracting isn’t the right audience and perhaps it’s a good time to review your digital PR strategy.

Is the PR content you’re producing relevant to the audiences you’re targeting? Are the publications you’re aiming for being read by the kind of audience who could be interested in doing business with you?

If not, then it is definitely time to review your PR strategy and refocus your efforts on a different media vertical.

Setting up goals and effective reporting can also give you insight into how much each website page is contributing to the overall ROI of your PR campaign.

Measuring exactly which pages are contributing to your business’ ROI enables you to report on the success of individual campaigns, which then informs the direction of future campaigns or individual content assets. This is giving you measurable outcomes and allowing you to hone your campaign based on results, not gut feel or questionable metrics.

Measuring your digital and social reputation and profile

When it comes to social media measurement, key metrics to measure are pretty obvious in the sense of followers. Another great metric which digital PR consultancies can review – which traditional PR measurement cannot – is how your PR campaigns or your business’ activities impact your reputation on social media.

This can be as simple as measuring the number of followers you have (or who is following you), whether you are getting likes, comments and re-tweets for the content you publish, or checking the number of mentions your business gets; and the sentiment of those mentions – either positive or negative.

The PR aspect of your social media should be measured on the type of conversations your business or brand appears in, and what social communities within your industry are saying.

One metric to measure whether PR is impacting social media is by asking your PR consultancy if the number of followers or positive mentions on your social media channels have increased during the timeframe of your PR campaign.

If the answer is yes, then you know PR is working.

Similarly, if your brand becomes subject to negative news attention on social media, a key metric to establishing whether your crisis communications strategy is working is how quickly those negative communications and interactions on social media give way to more positive responses.

What social media does for PR:

Using social media in a digital PR strategy can improve relationships between a brand and its customers as well as the media within its industry.

Much of online journalism is about scouring social media, looking for developing trends, interesting insights and making new contacts.

An interesting thread about a new development within an industry can easily be picked up by a curious journalist and the people they are most likely to contact are those already involved in the conversation.

Using social media monitoring as part of your PR campaign - like those which journalists use themselves - means you are always aware of what the latest topic of conversation is in your industry and can quickly react with your own content.

Being able to identify and influence conversations quickly, rather than trying to impact it later, greatly improves your chances of being considered a thought leader and getting in front of the media at the same time.

For PR you can also measure how often your business is mentioned in social media ‘threads’ and in what context or within which topics. Many of today’s negative headlines are now created by threads, comments and actions made on social media and the instant nature of platforms like Twitter mean that if you don’t react to negative comments quickly, you may never be able to get above the noise and your business’ reputation is permanently damaged.

Social media PR also enables you to break away from the traditional media and identify other online influencers who may be interested in your business and content. Using social media to identify and contact these influencers directly allows you to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of old school media and communicate with audiences directly.

How to get the most out of your PR content

A key metric in PR measurement is how hard your content is working for you and the business. Writing a single thought leadership article or whitepaper is fine if you only want limited exposure, but a well-oiled PR machine needs to be constantly fed content.

Writing multiple variations of content and getting them finalised can take a long time - and in the media, news changes fast. The key then, is to get the most possible reach – across multiple platforms – using a single content item in a slightly different format.

For example, taking the longest form of content - such as a whitepaper, an eBook or even an advertorial - and using this as the starting point of a thought leadership article that can be used to pitch to the media. These pieces can then be reused and repurposed further into blogs, tweets and other social posts – covering your owned, earned and paid media in one go.

The benefits to this are threefold:

Keeping the message on point:

Keeping the message on point: Creating content from scratch from different subject experts can often lead to confused or mixed messages. Using a single piece of content as a base means the message will always stay the same and ensure the things you’re measuring stay consistent.

Spread your message across different platforms:

The benefit is being able to play the same message across different audiences and platforms. For example, a white paper sent out on an email marketing campaign can hit one audience, while an opinion article based on the same content placed in a vertical-focused publication can help reach another.

Measuring what messages are getting the most pick up on different platforms means you can be smarter with your content targeting and get the best results.

Make the most of your content:

Traditionally, white papers and blogs get posted on a website and left to do their job. In the same vein, too much PR material is written and pitched out and never used within the wider marketing strategy. Repurposing content over numerous platforms and measuring which has most success means you can create more effective campaigns further down the road.

If you’re looking for a digital PR consultancy which can prove its worth and demonstrate real ROI or already have an agency but aren’t sure what they’re doing, why not book a free consultation and see how we can help?