“Show me the value PR provides our Brand the way marketing can” – Unnamed Executive.
PR pros never had an easy time measuring PR value but it used to be just as hard for advertisers and marketers to prove their worth as well. This is no longer true; the bar for reporting digital impact has been set high by online marketing and advertising professionals and PR is playing catch up. The good news is; earned media and search technology has rapidly evolved to favor the PR professional – now its time for PR to evolve to capture the opportunity.
At the onset of the online revolution, it was relatively easy for Marketing and Advertising to quickly adapted their models to the digital environment; they just had to experiment with digital outlets and shift spend according to results. For Public Relations professionals it was not that easy; your success was tied to the very institutions that digital advertising was challenging. This left even the most forward leaning Public Relations professionals walking a fine line between supporting the traditional media outlets that still ruled the news cycles and engaging emerging online media opportunities.
I am not surprising anyone by saying that times have changed and all Public Relations strategies need to have a strong digital component to the plan. Even if you don’t focus on digital PR; most print articles and even videos get syndicated online. Not having a plan to get the most out of your earned digital PR just leaves free money on the table. As a marketer, here are a few facts about digital PR that I hate to admit:
Digital PR can make or break any SEO strategy: Search engines (Google, Bing, etc) have refined their algorithms to the point they know when an article is talking about a brand even without any link back to the brand’s website. Great SEO professionals become best friends with the PR team because PR provides the best opportunity to land high quality backlinks that boost a website’s visibility more than any other factor.
Digital PR Drives Online Purchases (B2C) & Goal Conversions (B2B): Most people start their buying journey online. I would love to talk about all the user experience tests and onsite optimization I did as a marketer but the truth is that traffic from earned media is much more qualified and converts at a higher rate. If PR can land some positive mentions in high quality publications AND get a backlink, then our website will get a ton traffic that is much more likely to buy/convert to a lead regardless of the special discount offered, color of my CTA button, or even number of fields on a form.
Brand Impressions Count: I have done a ton of research lately on display ads and it has become clear that ad impressions (not just clicks) do drive new opportunities for our sales team. We are also seeing signs that media mentions have a similar impact even if direct referral traffic cannot be tracked through to a prospect. additionally, Google also searches the articles and gives your brand's website a boost in domain authority when they find quality mentions for your brand.
It is Easy to Prove Digital PR ROI, if You Know the Right Metrics: Digital PR drives website traffic; web analytics software is probably already capturing the data you need to project a revenue based ROI for your PR. These are goal conversions, referral visitors, bounce rate, items added to a shopping cart and more.
PR’s Reporting Conundrum
The last point was more a summary of the first 3 points than a thought all its own and brings me back to the original thought; the conundrum of measuring PR Value and how to deliver ROI based PR reporting. The PR Reporting conundrum is that many of the data points they need to measure PR value are in platforms owned by Marketing, Sales and Web Development teams. Traditional Public Relations software tools did not keep up with the digital revolution so PR has been effectively cut-off from the advanced web, marketing and sales analytics that they need to prove their digital worth.
The future is bright for PR measurement though. Advanced PR analytics platforms, like TrendKite, are emerging to integrate data from web analytics, marketing automation platforms, CRM’s and more to measure PR’s impact in a way for both PR professionals and executives understand. This allows PR pros to easily prove the ROI of their media mentions and optimize their strategies in an agile way that was previously impossible.
Industry resources are also catching up to help educate PR pros on the types of metrics they should be tracking and the data sources they will need to leverage to measure PR impact. Every PR conference we have attended this year has had multiple sessions on how PR should leverage big data, much is just airy theory with little actionable recommendations but it is good to see the conversations happening. Here are a few PR resources from TrendKite to help you solve the conundrum of measuring PR value:
- Measuring PR's Real Business Impact: Dashboards that Deliver >>
- SEO & SEM Strategies That PR Success >>
- The Communicator's Funnel: Data-Driven Framework for PR Strategy >>
- The What, Why, and How of SEO Driven PR >>
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