It is difficult to treat PR as an individual entity. It is most successfully employed as part of a broader integrated communications strategy. Its purpose is to raise awareness, not drive sales, which is why measuring its effectiveness can be tricky.
One way not to do it is to base PR value on the spend required to secure the equivalent advertising space. Advertising value equivalencies have been dead for a while. If it’s not obvious why this is, Google ‘Barcelona Principles’.
So how do we measure the value of PR without using rate cards?
Increased brand awareness is something all companies hope to achieve through their PR. If your customers aren’t aware of your presence within the market, generating new business is going to be a slow and painful process.
One simple way to assess PR success is to survey prospective clients before and after undertaking a campaign: if you find a higher percentage of respondents are familiar with your brand/messages following the campaign, it has been a success. Even more so if they recognise you before your competitors. However, this type of research can be expensive, especially if you’re interested in a select B2B audience for example. If this is too expensive then think about tailoring your sales scripts. If your sales team is at least anecdotally recording increased levels of awareness in prospects then you have a decent ROI metric to report.
A boost to your website’s organic traffic can be another sign of a successful online PR campaign, and is easily measured using Google Analytics.
Measuring referral traffic from sites your brand appears on is a useful metric and can inform the sites you and your agency target in future. But in order for your website to really benefit from your PR activity, focus your efforts on securing coverage on sites that offer back links. Some will link to a company’s website every time they mention them and others might only link to a resource on your blog for example, but every link you generate will help your website appear higher in Google’s search engine results pages for the keywords you’ve optimised your site for. We’ve seen huge increases in clients’ organic traffic levels when their keywords perform well.
There’s also a good chance a good PR campaign will result in an increase in direct traffic to your company website; a good indication of increased brand awareness - prospects know who you are and go straight to your website to investigate further.
Google Analytics is an essential tool for proving the value of online PR work. With a bit of know-how you can use it to track website activity following a big piece of print coverage, by setting up custom alerts. This will help you correlate your company’s feature in the Sunday paper with that big spike in traffic to your website.
Deal close rate
If increased brand awareness and website traffic are deemed ‘micro’ measurements of PR value, increased sales indicate ROI on a macro scale.
Thought leadership articles, high-profile editorial comment, infographics and case studies, even video, these materials are the ultimate sales collateral, and can be the deciding factor in a successful new business pitch. If your PR efforts make the difference between winning and losing a new business pitch or closing and not closing a deal on the phone, then you need to know about it – PR coverage is, after all, trusted third party commentary, and incredibly powerful if used correctly.
In summary, there are many metrics aside from outdated AVEs that businesses would do well to be aware of. Rather than simply assuming that a certain number of prospective customers have been engaged by, say, a recent piece of coverage, it is possible to measure the behaviour of your target audience following coverage publication, through improved brand recognition, increased organic website traffic, and a higher deal close rate.
By Luke Budka, director of award-winning integrated communications agency, TopLine Comms
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