Metrics from PR campaigns can be evaluated in many ways, including website hits, SEO benefit, coverage breakdowns and messaging pull through. But despite the numerous methods for PR pros to tackle measurement, totaling up media engagements—which, put simply, means a conversation or email with a journalist—is the closest some PR agencies come to metrics, with some even charging for this service!
High levels of this “media engagement” is a high priority for some PR agencies, but this doesn’t make it any easier for the C-suite or marketing managers to gauge PR performance. Though measuring this success is no sorcery, a recent IBA primary research study revealed that nearly half of B2B marketing managers struggled to determine contribution levels from PR and marketing agencies within the overall business. IBA research additionally discovered that 41 percent of marketing managers felt their PR agency focused too much on media engagements instead of concrete content placement metrics. And disappointingly, over a third also reported that their placements often occurred in the same small selection of media, demonstrating that some PR agencies rely of familiar media contacts for placements rather than their content.
Media engagement and timesheet reports are no substitute for cold hard media placements, so how can organizations successfully measure their PR output? Three simple metrics can provide an insight into PR campaign performance:
A rundown on coverage—accumulation and analysis
Quarterly or half-yearly reporting should give agencies and their marketing managers a sizeable sample to gauge campaign performance, velocity and momentum—showing which content formats have performed well, and where.
The value of the information is only as good as the data collected and data entry must ensure that all coverage is logged and coded correctly—noting type of deliverable—release, positioning article, thought leadership, case study, feature, interview and so on—and how it was displayed by the publishing media outlet, and the format it was published on such as, e.g. online platform, digital issue/hardcopy or newsletter.
Effective data analysis makes trends more visible. Once the numbers are collected, trends should become more apparent through data analysis. For a campaign featuring a split of articles, press releases and interview outreach, organizations can then look at the results and consider whether the coverage formats match the levels of activity.
For example, a high volume of news coverage vs. bylined placements may indicate an organization has not reached ‘thought leadership’ status within their target industries. Or, on the other hand, a lack of news coverage may signal a rethink in press release strategies.
Data analysis will reveal the shortfall of newswires. If using newswires, this data-led approach can allow for a separation between wire-drive syndications and quality coverage which has been picked up, read and posted by a physical journalist. The ability to gauge newswire expenditure also opens up the opportunity for businesses to reduce this service and focus on pitching.
Remember to check message reach. Businesses must keep in mind that 34 percent of marketing managers feel their public relations agency is ineffectual as they place content in the same small selection of media. But reaching a variety of publications with a PR campaign is just as important. A review of target media must be a priority and one that is continuously reviewed.
For businesses that use UVPM to determine campaign reach, an analysis of their overall coverage will indicate campaign impressions.
Handle UVPMs with care. But organizations should chase high UPVM figures with caution and not at the cost of targeted campaigns—they’re chasing B2B decision makers and potential buyers, not a vast consumer audience.
Valuable comms. messages, with a spotlight on geographic and topic breakdown
While the previous section discusses analysis by format and asset origination, all coverage should also be coded by message and, for international campaigns, by geography. By drilling deeper, marketing managers can start to understand more about how their campaigns and messages are resonating outside their own four walls. After six to 12 months, PR coverage can give B2B marketing departments an accurate reflection of which campaigns and messages are performing well and most significantly, where.
Data enables you to fine tune B2B messaging for the markets. These metrics can then shape strategies going forward, to ensure topics of most interest to the media are corresponding with the company marketing messages of the B2B organization. Those messages may need to be prioritized, modernized or revisited accordingly.
Coverage reporting may show certain topics are more developed in particular geographies, or even industries, and marketing strategies can be easily tailored going forward to ensure the most relevant messages are delivered to the most receptive audiences.
Inbound benefits can drive traffic for B2B organizations
Outside of the marketing department, business leaders themselves will want to know the value they’re deriving from their PR investment and here PR’s inbound benefits can be measured. Media outlets are progressively making the online move, paving the way for B2B organizations to boost their digital lead generation.
Media outlets have websites with extremely high-ranking domains, both in terms of their UVPM and search result prominence, therefore a targeted PR campaign generating high coverage volumes in influential media outlets will ensure a B2B organization, their messages, and keywords, are featured prominently in authoritative third-party domains. Ultimately, potential customers seeking specific software or industry issues are more likely to find a B2B organization with a consistent and active media strategy.
Placing company generated copy can optimize backlinks. On an even more direct level, by drafting the content they submit to influential media outlets, B2B marketers have substantial control over the backlinks they include. Press releases can contain relevant product page links and bylined content can incorporate links back to specific areas of the company website: research, white papers, blogs and more. Click through can be tracked through marketing platforms such as Hubspot or Marketo or simply through UTM-codes and Google Analytics.
Make an impression using dynamic PR metrics. Informative PR metrics start with great performance. This is where a constant flow of coverage can unlock opportunities for PR to exhibit how far it has come regarding direct impact on sales and marketing.
Jamie Kightley is head of client services at IBA International.