There is a lot of conversation happening online about the PR metrics communications professionals should use.
This is good!
We finally are having the conversation, which means two things: 1) Clients are beginning to realize there is more to what we do than media impressions and advertising equivalencies; and 2) Communications pros are learning from their marketing counterparts and becoming more savvy.
But there is a small problem with the conversation… it’s all focused on media relations.
This makes me want to cry.
Not only is there much more to what we do, there is much more we have to measure.
There are three organizations that have created a list of things we should measure.
- Engagement and conversation
- Reach and impressions
- Sentiment, opinion, and advocacy
- Influence and relevance
- Impact and value
From the Institute for Public Relations:
- Circulation, reach, and impressions
With the exception of return-on-investment, each of these PR metrics are based on things that don’t matter to an organization’s growth.
Sure, they matter to reputation and to how people feel about your organization, but those have to be combined with the things that drive sales or new donations or new members.
The Barcelona Principles come closer to what we need to measure:
- Tangible incremental increase in sales;
- Shift in behavior, rather than just purchase intention; and
- More brand advocates this quarter compared to the previous quarter.
Still, there is more and we have to do better.
Following are the metrics every integrated marketing communications program should employ, particularly in the PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned media) model.
Traditionally paid media has been left to the advertising guys, but today communications professionals have a huge opportunity to get really good at it.
Should you start learning how to write jingles and shoot commercials? Absolutely not. Leave that to the professionals.
What you should consider is how to use paid media to drive leads and conversions.
Think about the following PR metrics:
- Social media marketing. Some of you may be very good at Google AdWords and the like. I prefer to leave that to the experts, but it’s not rocket science, particularly if you have patience, a budget, and are good at A/B testing (the patience thing is what I lack). Are people clicking on your ad? What are they doing once they’re on your site? Like social media advertising, you want to see a correlation between people clicking and people buying.
- Landing pages and A/B testing. If you’re just starting out, there is no better software to use than Hubspot. It attaches to your content management system (or, in some cases, they become your CMS) and it provides data and recommendations, based on the people who are already visiting your site. They will recommend content (see owned media below) for you to put behind a landing page. That landing page will collect email addresses from the people who want your content. Those people become warm leads. Those warm leads can be nurtured and eventually turned into customers. Track them through the buying process and measure the effectiveness of your ability to get them to buy.
- Email marketing. There is almost nothing better for lead generation, nurturing, and conversion than email marketing. But I’m not talking about your monthly newsletter that is distributed and talks about your latest and greatest products or projects. I’m talking about email marketing that is valuable, informative, and interesting to your buyer. Maybe it’s a handful of videos that show new ways to use your product (see Will it Blend?) or a blog post that will help your audience be better at their job (presumably something like this post!).
- Leads and conversions. We have a client that has software as a service and offers a free trial. We know how many people we need at the top of the marketing funnel (which we track through the blog). We know the percentage of those who will take the free trial. And we know the percentage of those who will convert to being a customer. So, if we want to increase sales, we have to increase our top of the funnel visitors. In fact, our goal for 2015 (which begins this month), is a 24 percent increase in top of the funnel visitors.
Earned media got its name because you garner results from the relationships you earn – with influencers, with journalists, and with bloggers.
Historically, earned media has been the most credible because the stories, recommendations, and referrals come from third parties, though word-of-mouth from friends and friends of friends has quickly taken that leadership position (see shared media).
To measure the effectiveness of your earned media program, there are two posts you should read.
Between the two, you have the following PR metrics:
- Media, blogger, and influencer scoring. Consider this…does the Puxatoomie News Herald have as high a score as the New York Times? Does an influencer with 10,000 followers have the same score as someone with 1,000 followers? It could very well be that the person with 1,000 followers can incentivize purchase with 10 percent of his followers, while the person with 10,000 followers can incentivize purchase with only one percent.
- Web performance. It nearly kills me every time I ask people if they review their Google analytics and less than one percent actually do. This is based on my own, non-qualitative, data. But Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media Studios just conducted a survey among 1,000 bloggers and found nearly half either never or only occasionally review their analytics. People! There is so much data in that free tool. Get it. Play with it. Understand it. And create your metrics. Pay attention to how much new traffic a story, a blog post, a tweet, or a Facebook mention brings you. Is it qualified traffic? Do they visit other pages? Is the bounce rate low? Do they spend some significant time on the site? All of these things will tell you how valuable that third-party influencer is to your campaign (and helps you with scoring in the future).
- New audiences. At the top of the marketing funnel are the audiences and loyal fans that brands have; the people who are becoming aware of the brand via all of its communications. These audiences come from the addressable markets that a brand can potentially serve, and it’s the job of public relations and advertising to build those audiences and to identify and cultivate those loyal fans of your brand. Track your new audiences through unique visitors to the website and quantify their value. Once audience value is quantified, the ROI of PR is computable in real dollars and cents.
There is almost nothing that drives me more crazy than PR campaigns that tout their increases in social media followers as “results.”
Yes, you have to track those things because sharp declines – or a trend of decreasing followers – will tell you something is wrong.
But an increase, week after week, do not results make.
The following PR metrics, however, do:
- Social media advertising. Think particularly about Facebook and LinkedIn advertising. Both have the potential to drive both leads and conversions. My friend Terreece Clarke has had incredible success driving appointments with a daycare client of hers through Facebook advertising. They match the clicks on the ads to the likes on the page to the people who make appointments and have found it works incredibly well. On the flip side, though, we tried it with the launch of Spin Sucks (the book) and, while it drove some clicks and a couple of purchases, it didn’t drive enough sales to justify the cost.
- Influencer relations or brand ambassadors. The Barcelona Principles suggest we increase our brand advocates each quarter. This is a good metric if they are doing something (you don’t just have more ambassadors). During the Spin Sucks (the book) launch, we took a long, hard look at how many of the 150 ambassadors actually did something. Did they post a review? Did they share with their social networks? Did they write a blog post? Did they use their media relationships to get a review in a more traditional way? Did they podcast about it? We found about 50 percent did one (or all) of those things. Not a bad return-on-investment, but now our goal is to get 55 percent to do something in our next campaign.
- Rating system. Just like you can score your earned media, you can do the same for your social media updates and shares. Assign a point system to your efforts. For instance, likes are one point, comments are five points, and shares are 10 points. Then you can assigns points to each social network. On Twitter, you can use five points for a tweet and 10 points for a retweet. The point here is that you very quickly learn which campaigns worked really well and which fell flat on their face.
- Unique stuff. By “stuff” I mean unique URLs, landing pages, coupons, discount codes, or even telephone numbers. The only place these should be used is in social media (you can have different ones for the other media types to measure their effectiveness in a larger campaign). This allows you to easily point to the success of one tactic or marketing platform. In Google analytics, track how many people are using your unique stuff assigned to your shared media updates.
The beauty of owned media – or content that lives on something you own, such as your website or blog – is it completely integrates with the other three media types.
You cannot have owned media without paid media (increased reach), earned media (increased awareness), and shared media (increased distribution).
Alright, that may be a bit bold – you certainly can have owned media without those three things – but it won’t be as successful if you don’t use those assets.
Also think about these PR metrics:
- The vanities. Yes, I’m not so naive to think these don’t matter. You should pay attention to unique visitors, time spent on the site, and bounce rate. Those things, like an increase (or decrease) in social media followers, indicate success or failure. But these are the tip of the iceberg.
- Email marketing. If you have an organized owned media program, you likely are distributing through email marketing. When you integrate your content with this paid media tactic, you can track things such as downloads and shares. Do people download the content? Do they read or watch or listen to it once it’s been downloaded? Is it so good they can’t help but share it with their communities? Are they bringing you new website visitors – which correlate to new leads – because you’ve provided so much value?
- Social media shares. As much as I really, really hate to admit it, social media shares matter. Ever been to a site where you’ve read a piece of content, thought it brilliant, and then noticed there are no social shares? Your immediate thought is not, “Oh this content must be crap” (though that doesn’t enter your mind). Your immediate thought is, “What’s wrong with me that I thought this so brilliant?” Social shares matter because they provide social proof.
- Community. There is lots and lots and lots of debate about what a community can do, both for your vanity metrics and your social shares. Having built a community of Crazies (I love you all!) and replicating that same success for clients, I can tell you – hands down – an engaged community drives sales. We track the effectiveness of your involvement through book sales (yay, ambassadors!), speaking engagement recommendations, client referrals, and paid webinar attendees. An engaged community indirectly drives a significant amount of our revenue. Build your community! In some cases, it will integrate with your influencer relations and brand ambassadors.
- Sales. Admittedly, it’s fairly easy for us to track sales from our owned media because we’re a small organization. It’s easy to ask people to tell us how they found us and follow their journey backwards to see which buying process they used. That said, we know eighty percent (that’s 8-0 percent) of our new revenue starts with this blog and the buying process goes one of three or four ways. We can help people make a decision by providing them the information they need in one of those processes.
What this all comes down to, of course, is whether or not we’re providing real proof that we are an investment, and not an expense.
Some of these things are considered traditional PR, while others might historically fall under marketing or advertising.
But the lines are blurry and it’s time for us to extend the conversation about PR metrics to more than just media relations.