The close of the year is quickly approaching. With that brings trade show season (Dreamforce and AWS re:Invent, oh my!), executive predictions on what 2019 will bring, and the often-dreaded End of Year reporting exercise. PR and marketing professionals have long deplored the challenges of how to best measure your program success and effectively report earned media results.
Yes, it can be difficult to understand how to justify your team’s hard work to management, or to measure PR’s contribution to the bottom line. Traditional agencies will pull together a coverage report – or, for the old-school PR folks out there, a clip book – and count up their hits. But savvy PR professionals will look for ways to demonstrate how their team’s work in media relations and social media impacts the larger marketing mix.
As a Google Analytics Certified Partner, we take a data-driven approach to reporting whenever possible. While every client’s definition of success is different, we believe in demonstrating PR’s true impact across paid, earned and owned channels.
With a variety of measurement categories available, it can be challenging to select the right mix. So here, in no particular order, I’ve outlined five metrics for measuring how PR results directly impact a client’s bottom line.
Quality and quantity of coverage
Yes, this one’s tried and true. But, every single one of our clients still cares about the number of articles we secure throughout the duration of the year. Why? It’s easily measured and a good indicator of progress – a year-over-year percentage increase in coverage can easily be cited as validation for PR spend. But, don’t forget about measuring the quality of coverage. Securing 100 articles in obscure, low-tier outlets is not going to cut it. How does one measure the quality of coverage? There are a few options to consider:
- Develop a leaderboard of key outlets or reporter relationships and track traction against the list each quarter
- Assign a ranking system to rate the quality of each article: five points for a feature in a business outlet; four points for a feature in a top trade; three points for an executive quote, and so on. Then, work toward a number goal, either annually or quarterly
- Using Google Analytics metrics to track website traffic from coverage such as sessions and the number of new users can quantify results of coverage. While metrics such as bounce rate, and avg. time on page can indicate the quality of traffic from certain publications.
Share of Voice vs. competitors in the media
Share of voice can be tricky as it is so easily “gamed.” To combat issues with sentiment and inaccurate data, SHIFT recommends tracking metrics in five key areas of your business – search, social media, paid advertising, owned content and earned media.
This one is fairly straightforward – is the client’s messaging being reflected within earned coverage? This metric is especially helpful in determining whether or not the media understood the key points of a launch, a new company direction or corporate strategy. The process is fairly simple: select the 1-2 key messages (keep them succinct) that each article should hit on. Then, during coverage monitoring, identify the percentage of articles that included those key points.
Backlinks from Coverage
Mostly everyone will agree that PR does indeed drive web traffic. But, if an article results in a significant amount of website traffic and no one sees it, does it exist? The solution: grant your PR team Google Analytics access – even if it’s just read-only. Not only does the site help determine which outlets are driving traffic from earned coverage (sometimes the outlets we least expect are the largest traffic drivers!).
In addition to tracking website traffic, we can also measure potential SEO (search engine optimization) impact through backlinks obtained from coverage. Essentially, backlinks from coverage to a website can have “link equity” or link juice. The more link equity passed along, the more likely the client’s page is going to rank higher.
Once we know what pieces of coverage are producing backlinks and resulting in traffic, in Google Analytics, we can then analyze the coverage’s Page Authority (this metric helps indicate how well a specific page will rank on search engine result pages (SERP)). The higher the coverage’s Page Authority is, the more “link equity” passed along to the webpage linked to. Using Moz’s Link Explorer – we can find this metric and so much more. For example, here’s a breakdown of a Fast Company article’s ranking power:
This is the Holy Grail for PR professionals. Having the ability to put a value on earned coverage – for example, an excellent feature in FORTUNE driving hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue – is the truest measure of program success. PR teams should work with the clients to understand their broader business goals and align PR conversion goals. This might include targeting visitors from a new industry/vertical to grow market share, or an X percentage increase in whitepaper downloads to improve the sales pipeline.
As we’ve mentioned throughout the article, Google Analytics is, yet again, a great tool to use to track conversion rates. Work with the client to see if they have goals set up on the platform and determine which they’d like to highlight. We can then directly track the total number of conversions, revenue, and conversion rates obtained by certain publications.
Ultimately, your team should measure your PR success by addressing what really matters to key stakeholders – the Board, the C-suite and, internal client contacts. Working together to outline KPIs and then tracking against them on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis ensures that everyone’s aligned and working toward the same goals.
Originally published October 14, 2016, updated November 2, 2018