Return on Investment. The crux of so many PR client meetings. Gone are the days of walking into a client’s office with a stack of newspapers that they’ve been featured in since the beginning of your contract; no longer can the value of PR be realistically measured by how much the table shakes when you drop that stack of coverage. So, how can it be measured?
The fact that the UK public relations industry alone is worth over £12.9 billion stands testament to the fact that PR matters, but there is an increasing appetite for hard data to back up this claim. To hold our ground around the marketing table, we need to be able to show how coverage generates positive business outcomes. I attended PR Week’s breakfast briefing on ‘Measuring the value of PR’ to find out just how this can be achieved. Below I’ve outlined my key takeaways.
Agencies need to move away from attempting to measure volume of coverage, and instead measure the impact of it. This means asking questions like; Is the piece of coverage just a comment? Is it a whole article dedicated to your client? Does it include images? At BlueSky, we often find that clients delight at a name drop in a top tier publication like Forbes. But one piece of coverage in Forbes isn’t necessarily equal to another piece of coverage in Forbes. Whilst one might achieve a real organisational goal, for example, an increase in applications to a certain featured business school, another article might serve simply to boost the ego of an interviewee. This kind of vanity PR is best avoided, or at least, not prioritised.
Collaborate. The whole process of measurement can be daunting for those unused to having the value of their industry questioned. An examination of key performance indicators (KPIs) makes for a good starting point. However, there are simply too many existing KPIs for one team to realistically measure. Just a small collection of examples are; new users, visibility, white paper downloads, links, shares, likes, key word ranking, branded mentions, revenue, traffic and reach. Fortunately, a significant amount of these indicators are usually already tracked by social and SEO channels. The parameters of PR as an art are increasingly ill-defined, but in this instance we can make use of data from our sister channels and map that data against our PR efforts to establish correlations.
There’s no use in setting internal goals like ‘achieve 30 pieces of coverage for client A in January’. Instead set a practical business objective. Here in the BlueSky education team, our clients are business schools and universities, so one such target might be increasing student applications from a particular country. A corporate PR agency might alternatively set a target of increasing their clients’ sales of a particular item. Then, the PR agency in question can design a campaign which aims to achieve this easily measurable purpose. If at the end of the campaign, the objective is achieved, regardless of the manner or type of coverage, the campaign is proven successful.
Agencies with smaller budgets and little digital expertise can struggle with the first steps for measuring return on investment. Speakers from Builtvisible, a digital marketing and SEO agency, suggested google analytics as a first port of call. Although, they were careful to warn against using the tool without customising it to suit the data genuinely required by your organisation. Vanity URLs were also highlighted as a good option; URLs can be created to redirect all relevant searches to the same company or campaign hub page in order to concentrate web traffic and make it easier to measure.
It’s all very well repeating the importance of measuring the impact of PR in line with business goals. But explanations tend to grow a little vague when getting to the nitty-gritty of just exactly how to do that. Above I’ve outlined the most useful insights I gathered, but you can’t blame the experts for not wanting to give away all their secrets. The short cut to getting the most out of measurement seems to be to make use of the tools created for the purpose. PR Week’s breakfast briefing promoted two in particular. Firstly, Amec’s Measurement Maturity Mapper, which measures three levels of organisational conduct; the reporting level (are you tracking?), the planning level (are you using those results top refine your work?) and the impact level (are you achieving your goals?). Additionally, the conference indorsed 3monkeyszeno’s ROAR framework, which is a collaborative and free framework of measurement which utilises three pillars of metrics; exposure, engagement and endorsement. The popular media intelligence company Gorkana was involved in the creation of ROAR’s particularly good-looking graphs, which presumably go down a treat with data-orientated clients.
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Author: Charlotte Skeggs