If you’re working with a data-driven PR firm, chances are at some point in your relationship you will be asked to grant access to a variety of marketing and data systems. What systems might you be asked about, and why?
To understand how systems access informs your PR program, we’ll reference the SHIFT Earned Media Hub Strategy as the base framework.
Chances are you’ll be asked for any existing market research that’s you’ve done. This helps to narrow down PR campaigns, making them more appealing to your target audiences. For example, if you’re a B2B technology company, you hopefully have a fairly good idea of where your desired buyers spend time in the media. That information, combined with audience research done by your PR agency, should narrow down which publications and influencers will be most receptive to your message.
Systems you may be asked about: market research, previous campaign performance data
Brands often have baseline style guides, but style guides aren’t enough. If you’ve got display advertising data from services like AdRoll, Google AdWords, and other ad networks – especially the results of A/B tests – that data can be used to help guide future content creation.
For example, previous PPC ad data that shows certain taglines in ads to be more effective would be very useful for a creative team building an infographic on the same topic. Existing social media data from your Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook accounts could help to inform what imagery resonates best with your audience.
Systems you may be asked about: display ad servers, graphics, and organic social media data
Chances are you’ve got some content already in a library somewhere, or in a content management system (CMS). Having access to the CMS, even in a read-only capacity, can help your PR agency understand what’s been done already. Knowing what’s been done (and the success or lack of success) can help to eliminate bad ideas, stale ideas, or ideas that are commonplace and won’t make you stand out.
Systems you may be asked about: CMS logins to blogs, content libraries, asset pools
When you’re crafting or refining a brand’s identity, understanding where the brand has been, what’s been said, and what competitors are saying is essential. Without that base of knowledge, differentiation is extremely difficult. A savvy PR firm is likely to ask you for competitive research you’ve already done on brand messaging, resonance, and competitive earned, owned, and paid data.
Systems you may be asked about: competitive advertising data, competitors’ ad copy, prior competitor PR data if available
As a program gets off the ground, you should have baseline information about where your brand stands currently. Traditional measures such as audience reach, impressions, and share of voice aren’t enough by themselves, but in aggregate can help to paint an overall picture of where your company stands in the marketplace. Additionally, if you’ve got pre-existing or preferred tools for measuring earned media reach, access to those tools and prior data is essential for measuring ongoing success.
Finally, aggregated data such as media lists already in place should be part and parcel of working with a PR agency; those lists will likely need to be cleansed and scrubbed for quality, so granting early access to your databases is vital.
Systems you may be asked about: audience research tools you own such as Cision/Vocus*, media lists, brand measurement tools
Owned media is the gateway to the remainder of the marketing and sales funnel, whether you’re B2B, B2C, small or large. The world is digital and mobile now, and your website and owned media properties are the places people go to find out how to do business with you. Sometimes they’re just looking for a store locator to find a brick and mortar location. Sometimes they want to buy in the moment with the convenience and immediate gratification of online. Sometimes they’re just looking for more information but aren’t even at the purchasing stage.
Your owned media analytics systems can discern all of these behaviors and many more. Measuring PR success must use owned media analytics to connect the top of the funnel (awareness) with the rest of the business. Even something as seemingly primitive as foot traffic counters in retail stores is a form of owned media measurement, because a retail store is just as much a media experience as it is a place of transaction.
Systems you may be asked about: Web analytics software, marketing automation software, audience metrics systems on and offline
Traditionally the domain of advertising agencies, paid media systems can contain treasure troves of data useful to your PR efforts. We’ve already touched on understanding what campaigns have already been successful in the research phase, but paid media also has some of the best audience insights tools available to businesses and agencies.
There is no more powerful synergy than an integrated campaign across earned, owned, and paid media, so expect your PR team to ask about what campaigns are already queued up in your paid media systems and what audiences are defined. You may also be asked for access to paid media systems for the purposes of syndication and amplification, where an earned media hit is rebroadcast in advertising channels to extend its reach and impact.
Systems you may be asked about: PPC and SEM marketing software, display ad systems, video and multimedia ad systems, media buying platforms
Marketing and Sales
At the end of the day, having an audience that is aware of you, trusts you, and likes you enough to buy from you is the goal of an effective PR program. However, that audience also has to do business with you in order for you to realize the true benefits of PR. Thus, a complete PR program must have access to data down the funnel to see how much of the audience is converting into prospects, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, business opportunities/deals, and ultimately into revenue. Without that information, you may be targeting the wrong, unqualified audience in all of your media efforts.
Finally, businesses can be made or broken on service and support. Great service means free PR via word of mouth from your existing customers. Bad service means inevitable PR crises down the road as customers rightfully complain. Your PR program needs that information in order to forecast and plan for crises and opportunities.
Systems you may be asked about: marketing automation software, sales CRM platforms, customer support and service platforms
Data isn’t just for your marketing team or for an analytics department buried inside of your company. If you want to maximize the results of every part of your marketing and communications programs, give access to as many systems and data pools as practical and reasonable. The more information you share with your partners, the better the work a data-driven PR agency can do on your behalf.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
* Disclosure: Cision/Vocus is a SHIFT client.