Ashley Glenn
Ashley Glenn

Demonstrating measurable business results from media outreach campaigns can be one of the toughest parts of PR. It used to be that brand recognition, reputation and audience perception were the key metrics by which PR campaigns were measured, and these were mostly based on sentiment—qualitative measures of how the campaign made the target audience feel or think about a brand.

But today’s clients are looking for more: They want hard data to show how PR is moving the needle when it comes to driving business KPIs like leads, conversions and sales. Especially now, when budgets are tight and every expenditure demands strong justification, clients need to know they’re getting real return on their investment.

Too often, PR pros are still taking the easy way out by name-dropping data tracking tools like Cision or using buzzword phrases like “brand awareness” to demonstrate ROI. Today, PR plays a much more impactful role in the integrated marketing mix, meaning the ways in which we measure impact must change as well. Clients are looking to us to connect the dots with tangible metrics, so how can we become more effective at measuring and communicating ROI?

The answer: Google Analytics. By tapping into the wealth of data available through this free platform, PR pros can more effectively measure and communicate ROI to prove the impact of outreach efforts. Here are five key metrics you should start tracking right away.

• Referral traffic. The number-one metric to look at in Google Analytics is referral traffic, especially when your media placement included a backlink to your website (PR pros should always include them in press releases and, when applicable, ask reporters to include them as well). This report gives you a clear indication of how many users actually clicked on the link and arrived back at your website. From that report, you can even drill down and see each user’s average session duration, pages viewed per session, etc., to learn more about their level of engagement once on the site.

• Goals Conversions Report. Getting people to the site is the first step. But are they moving through the marketing/sales funnel? This report can give you the answer. At SSPR, we set up client accounts to track specific actions that a user takes: makes a purchase, submits a form, downloads a resource or any other action that affects marketing efforts. Using this report, we can then track how many visitors completed those actions in a given period. Even if generating sales is not a main goal of your PR efforts, this report is important because it can also tell you where people are dropping off and leaving your site. Are you promising something in the media that visitors aren’t seeing once they get to your website? This insight can help you make changes to your messaging, content or usability to improve results and keep users invested.

• Reverse Goal Path. This report shows the last three-to-four steps users took on the website to complete a conversion (see above), which ultimately provides insight into which pieces of content are most impactful. For example, if we set a goal to track contact form submissions, we can then use the Reverse Goal Path report to see that a specific infographic or blog a user read during their visit drew them to submit the form. Or, if your goal is to drive clicks on the “Get Demo” link, you may find your new whitepaper isn’t quite as effective as the sneak peek of the walkthrough video. Using this knowledge, you can then develop or adjust your content marketing strategy to create resources you know will prompt users to take the desired action.

• New vs. Returning Users. This report provides great insight into both brand awareness and how well you’re nurturing the customer relationship, which is especially important in B2B markets where sales cycles tend to be longer. Of course, you’ll want to look for a steady increase in new visitors, and if you’re not seeing this, it may be time to re-evaluate the publications you’re targeting for outreach. But returning users are also important because conversions don’t often happen on a first visit. Keeping users coming back is critical for building a long-standing relationship that leads them down the funnel to conversion. Adding new users is great, but it also takes a lot more time and money to continually replace them. Nurturing repeat visitors builds brand credibility and loyalty.

• Social Network Referrals. Public relations and social media go hand-in-hand, as social platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be a huge source of traffic. The moment a piece of content is shared on social media, whether it comes from your own blog, a media placement or an industry influencer, it becomes earned media—essentially a personal endorsement by the individual who shared it—and that has tremendous value. Looking at social media traffic can help you to maximize ROI by sharing content and assets where they’ll drive the most engagement with your intended audience. If you’re spending most of your time and effort promoting content on Twitter, but Google Analytics indicates that LinkedIn is generating more visitors, it may be time to shift your focus.

There is a tremendous amount of insights available through Google Analytics to help optimize PR campaign performance and ensure your clients are getting the best return on their investment. There’s also a strong case for pushing back on clients for whom PR “success” is only measured in tier-one media placements. By demonstrating that the most important traffic, most promising leads and most valuable customers may actually come from smaller, more niche publications, PR pros can focus their efforts on building the media relationships that matter.

Measuring PR ROI with the kind of business-focused metrics available through Google Analytics is a powerful way to demonstrate how PR serves the top of the marketing funnel and helps drive users down the funnel toward interest, consideration and ultimately, conversion.


Ashley Glenn is senior specialist of innovation at SSPR.