When is it Appropriate for Website Traffic to be a PR goal?

September 6, 2017 Lacey Miller

We’ve mentioned before that the line between PR and marketing has become blurry. These days marketers and PR professionals use many of the same tools, like content development and storytelling. Paid placements are usually (but not always) under the purview of marketing and PR folks generally deal with earned media, but the primary goal of both camps is to improve business performance in a way that ultimately leads to increased revenue. It stands to reason, then that some of the metrics that prove success for marketing and PR will be the same.

Website traffic is a good example. Although website traffic is traditionally considered a marketing metric, public relations can have a big impact on driving new and returning visitors to your website in both direct and indirect ways.

If you are a PR pro, you might want to use website traffic as a PR goal if …

You Need an Objective Way to Prove the Value of PR

These days executives are looking for concrete data to justify every investment and drive decisions about how to deploy resources. PR has long been considered difficult to measure. In the days before digital content distribution, it was hard to know if an earned media mention or brand created content asset changed public perception enough to get people to act. To put some numbers behind the practice PR teams invented some dubious math called AVE that quickly falls apart under scrutiny. (Check out our new ebook: AVE is a Mirage: And Other Radical Shifts in Public Relations.)

Today, the digital media landscape means that measuring the impact of public relations is easier than ever. It is absolutely possible to tie a bump in website traffic to PR efforts. Even better, with the right tools in place, you can measure the results of that traffic in terms of time on site, lead conversions and ultimately revenue. This provides tangible evidence that PR is delivering value.

There Has Been a PR Crisis or Bad News in the Media

Eventually, almost every brand will face a crisis or some type of unfortunate news event. It is the responsibility of PR teams to react and respond, but how do you know if that response is effective? One of the most important things to do when faced with this predicament is to gain control of the narrative. You can’t change the facts (and shouldn’t lie about them), but you can make sure that the brand’s point of view is effectively communicated and that other, more positive messages are also getting through. Your ability to control what other sources say about the situation is limited, but you do have complete control over your owned assets, most importantly, your website.

If you see a bump in website traffic during a crisis, that’s good evidence that your story is being heard. It might be smart and necessary to create particular pages or posts that address the current situation and measure the traffic to those pages.  If website traffic goes down following the release of bad news, you know you need a strategy to bring people back to your site where they can get the latest updates from you and hopefully be reassured by the other positive messages you have to offer.

You Want to Know What PR Tactics Are Most Effective

In addition to using PR delivered website traffic to prove your value to executive and clients, you can also use it to drive your strategy. Most PR teams have limited resources in terms of both budget and people, so it is essential to use them wisely. It takes a lot of effort, for example, to win an earned media mentions, but getting the “ink” is only worth your hard work if it results in the amplification of your brand message.

One way to tell which activities payoff is to track website activity following every public event or media mention.  The ones that cause a spike may surprise you and help you determine which channels, content types, or journalists should be the focus of your strategy.

Ideally, PR and marketing teams make a coordinated and well-planned effort to highlight key themes and stories that increase awareness and interest in the brand. Marketing activities like paid advertisements should give website traffic a boost. PR campaigns should absolutely do the same. Smart PR pros use website analytics as a way to both measure past performance and inform future plans. When laying out your PR goals, website traffic should almost always be high on the list.

About the Author

Lacey Miller

Passionate about public relations and empowering practitioners, Lacey Miller found her dream job at TrendKite, where she carries the crown of 'word nerd'. With a background in public relations and technology, she's a great fit with her desire to innovate the industry! You can find her most days writing for PR Forward, PRSA, and other marketing trade publications.

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