Marketing and PR guru, Seth Godin, once said, “Measurement is fabulous. Unless you’re busy measuring what’s easy to measure, as opposed to what’s important.” And it's time to walk away from the weak wins of the PR puzzle and measure the pieces that are impactful. But it terms of PR, what is important to measure? Let's define your goals, breaking things down into campaigns, brand building initiatives, and crisis management.
Full disclosure, this is not for the seasoned professional. If you’re rocking TrendKite, you probably already know who signs your paycheck and how to impress that person. This is for the more novice communications professional who wants to make sure their first PR presentation to executives checks all the boxes and speaks the right language. Let’s begin.
A PR campaign, that set of activities built around promotions, events, or product launches, are different than other areas of PR, like awareness building, paid advertising, and reacting to news. Public relations campaigns theoretically hit the greater whole, but measured data needs to be targeted toward a specific group. And when focusing on the three stages: setting goals, developing the message, and communicating, your goal is to break down your audience into smaller segments, i.e. specific industries or geographies. When setting up a TrendKite dashboard, we don’t just search “Amazon”; we go 10 levels deeper to make sure the results we are looking at are specific to the campaign we just ran.
The Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for digital PR campaigns should answer two key questions. Did you reach the intended audience? Was your message effective enough to cause action?
Reach: To understand reach you must understand things like readership, site visits, asset downloads, event attendance. Reach measurements help you quantify the potential impact of your campaign and the quality of mentions, but do not guarantee any change in behavior or positive return. Message pull through is an important part of understanding reach. The key question is, did the people who were reached receive the messages you wanted them to hear? It may be fun to say ‘Justin Bieber retweeted us!!’ but if you aren’t selling to musically developing tweens, then who cares?
Action: Campaign goals should include outcomes. Effective PR campaigns generate increased website visits, more leads, and revenue. Direct the plane to land where you want it, so you can see how things land.
Let’s talk one piece of those, web traffic; using free tools, like Google analytics, can give you insight into the web traffic YOU created. If your hard work created a traffic spike, then you need to be the person who stands in front of the big boss and starts your presentation with, “I drove a 45% increase in traffic over the course of this campaign.” From there, tag that to leads, then to deals closed. Take ownership of revenue driven!
Public relations is an essential component for building brand value, maintaining brand vitality, and establishing brand credibility. Building a strong brand in the digital age is more important, but harder, than ever. Today, branding is a tool for developing and maintaining a competitive advantage (read more obscure to measure than that web traffic). The modern world of digital media is noisy and staying competitive is a difficult daily challenge. With information at their fingertips, today’s buyers are autonomous. They have limitless choices and can easily be overwhelmed with information, making a well-defined brand an absolute necessity for setting you apart from your competitors.
Engagement is another important aspect of brand building. People who have an affinity for a company and its products are more likely to share their content on social media, comment on blogs and earned media posts, offer up positive ratings and reviews, and generally spread the brand’s message. Even people who never become buyers can be engaged advocates, which is part of the reason that measurement for brand building must consider more than the bottom line.
Brand Awareness Measurements
Brand awareness is time consuming to measure without a strong platform of tools at your disposal (Klout is no longer a thing); but it can’t be left out and it can’t be underestimated...just ask Chipotle.
These are the KPIs for brand building you should include in your PR report:
- Website traffic generated from backlinks in your earned media mentions
- Goal conversions through the website and new leads generated for sales
- Changes in Google search ranking of keywords your PR campaigns target
- Competitive benchmarking metrics like share of voice and how it has trended over time
- Sentiment analysis to show how you are changing the nature of the conversation
We all hope to avoid these but we aren’t always in control, so we’ve got to talk about it. We define a crisis as, “A significant threat to operations or reputations that can have negative consequences.” In PR crisis management, we work to prevent or reduce the damage bad news can inflict on a brand and its stakeholders. Crisis management is a process, not just an event, and made up of three phases: pre-crisis, crisis response, and after-crisis analysis. The pre-crisis step is all about prevention and preparation. The crisis response phase includes the activities undertaken during the time frame immediately following awareness of the crisis. The post-crisis phase is when teams look for ways to better prepare for the next crisis and carry out promises made during the crisis phase, including providing any necessary follow-up information.
Measuring Crisis Response
We generally recommend paying more attention to quality mentions than the quantity of mentions, but during a crisis the volume of buzz about the problem is important, so it is essential to monitor the entire media landscape to create base and trend lines regarding the issue. In almost every case, a decrease in related mentions will indicate that your crisis management efforts have been effective.
The next step is to get a handle on how well you have crafted and communicated your messages. As with brand building, message pull-through, reputation scores, and sentiment are important here. Of course, you also want to get a handle on the impact of the crisis by looking at objective measurements such as website traffic, lead volume, and revenue. You’ll want to see these return to pre-crisis levels as quickly as possible...funny to think we want to drive that traffic when it’s good news, and squash it immediately when it’s bad. Such are the ups-and-downs we must measure in PR.
Accurate and complete PR measurement certainly involves an investment in terms of technology and time. But if you apply the right types of measurements to the right types of activities, you can understand the effectiveness of your strategy and make data-driven decisions on how to improve it. After all, as Arthur C. Neilsen, founder of ACNeilsen so eloquently put it, “The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.”