This post was first published by Nate Hubbell on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
There are generally two ways to conduct PR measurement: output vs. outcomes. But what many struggle to grasp is that measurement itself is not analytics. In PR, analytics takes on a very literal meaning in that, conducting analysis about how best to target a program requires lots of research, interpretation and expertise. However, good measurement is vital for the data it produces: accurate analysis requires good data.
The challenge for PR analytics is marshaling valuable data, much of which tends to be unstructured in the form of editor sentiments in articles, customer opinions on social media, or how well messages resonate with your audience. These are topics we’ll be exploring more, but right now let’s focus on this: getting good data demands good measurement, and that means getting output and outcome measurement right.
Basic output measurement is really an extension of any agency-client agreement. These are often defined by a set of deliverables that the PR agency is responsible for, such as: how much content will be created? At what rate will coverage be secured? At what rate will briefings be secured?
It’s important to track goals progress, but the reality is that output measurement will really only let you analyze whether you’re planting seeds in your garden without analyzing if those seeds are growing into plants!
Output PR analytics can produce valuable insights, though: the more granular the goals, the closer they get to being truly valuable outcomes for a PR program. For instance, rather than a general goal for coverage each month, decide what constitutes tier-one coverage. Perhaps a goal is to sign new utilities industry customers: make your tier-one press targets utilities industry publications.
Analyzing at regular intervals the rate and percentage at which tier-one coverage, or other more granular goals, are being achieved is an important piece of PR measurement. It will let you analyze whether PR is producing more valuable results than just meeting standard goals.
But as valuable as some of these granular output metrics might be for seeing how PR efforts are supporting broader marketing goals, they fall short of being able to answer more important questions like: are you outpacing competitors’ visibility? Did that coverage deliver new sales leads? Revenue?
Outcome-based PR Analytics like these require a bigger, more complex effort. Even some of the more “basic” forms of outcome measurement, such as share of voice and message resonance, require many more data points, sophisticated tools and systems to manage the volume.
But even things like share of voice don’t get as deep as other outcome PR analytics can. To really achieve that depth, you need to tie PR to your revenue stream, and that requires things like granular link tracking, giving your PR team access to Google Analytics, and possibly even changing certain sales engagement and reporting processes.
Say a piece of coverage appears with a link to a piece of research your company conducted and is hosting on its website. Google Analytics should be programmed to track inbound traffic from that link, and measure visitor activity once they arrive. The more they see and do will change the value of that visitor as a potential lead for the sales team. Additionally, if you’re tracking the inbound traffic from that link and know a particular person came from that piece of utilities coverage, the sales team can input that “lead source” in their CRM tool as “PR”, and, voila! PR ROI!
That is valuable data that can drive powerful PR analysis.