It’s no secret that I am a lover of numbers. For the first few years of my career, I was constantly frustrated by the lack of real measurable metrics for the work we do, outside of media impressions and advertising equivalencies—which I think we can all agree are bunk.

But then digital marketing and communications changed my life because it allows us to track our efforts specific to an organization’s goals. And, in the work we do with SaaS companies, recurring revenue is the Golden Ticket.

As machine learning and artificial intelligence have gotten smarter, so has our ability to not just track our efforts to the all mighty dollar, but to attribute first, middle, and last-touch marketing and communications efforts. 

We have a client that has a very robust data science team and I’m constantly asking them questions. Now tell me about this! And what happens if we do that? I don’t know if they love or hate me, but I love getting all the data I possibly can from them. 

So, imagine my shock when I opened the MuckRack State of PR Measurement Report…and found that 94% of respondents measure their efforts by the number of stories placed. Ninety-four percent, y’all.

Maybe we don’t all agree that media impressions and AVEs are bunk.

PR Measurement Month

November is PR measurement month, and AMEC is spending the entire month focused on the things that should matter to you, beyond media impressions and AVEs.

There is still time to catch some of their live sessions, and you can watch on-demand the ones you missed. The point, though, is you must do something. If you’re among the 94% who measure results by the number of stories placed, 2022 has to be a big professional development year for you. We also teach you how to measure your efforts in the PESO Model Certification, but enhance those skills in any way you can. Stat.

Right now, the MuckRack State of PR Measurement Report shows that stat to remain unchanged for next year. I expect you all to do better. Let’s lower that stat next year—and replace it with meaningful PR measurement. It won’t happen in just one year, but we can start that process now so, eventually, “measuring” by the number of stories placed doesn’t even show up.

Some of the other findings from the report found that: 

  • More communicators will focus on social media in 2022: 60% will measure social shares and social engagement.
  • Just a little more than a quarter—28%—plan to report on customer sentiment in 2022, which is a 10% increase over 2021.
  • Less than half share updates and reporting with their executive team (47%),

I’m good with measuring customer sentiment—and perhaps adding employee sentiment in there, too—but the rest of this makes my head hurt. If the executive team doesn’t know what you’re doing and what the results are, how can they expect to value the work you do? 

We must do better.

That stat needs to jump to 100%. I understand it’s a large increase, but it’s necessary if we are ever going to help leadership understand the value of the work we do.

The report shows that the average communicator tracked four metrics, outside of the number of stories placed. It includes audience reach, website traffic, social media shares/mentions, and social media engagement. 

I’m not going to tell you not to measure those things because you do need them to know what’s working—and what’s not. But those metrics are where you start, not where you end. 

Attributing Website Traffic

First off, you definitely need to know if something is working—and if it’s not. The easiest way to do that is to track website traffic. One of my favorite things to do is show a client which publications, websites, and blogs are the most effective for their business.

And, because we work solely with SaaS companies, they ALL want to be in TechCrunch. Every one of them. And, for most, TechCrunch does nothing more than give them an ego boost.

For example, in July, we got a story placed in TechCrunch for a client. Yay, us! But, because I’m me and I don’t let us rest on our number of stories placed laurels, I like to know more.

In this instance, that story sent 18 new visitors to the website. Now, I could make the argument that if they are the right 18 people, that’s more than enough. But, we don’t know who they are, just by looking at website traffic. We need to learn more.

Of those 18 people, one person requested pricing info and one person downloaded some of our amazing content (LOL!). No one requested a demo and the person who requested pricing info did not convert into a customer.

Proving ROI As It Relates to Cash

On the flip side, one of the biggest trade publications in their industry sent 429 new visitors—and is the number 10 source of referral traffic. Of the 429 new visitors, 32 requested a demo, which is the creme de la creme. We also know that they close 80% of those who request a demo—and that the average customer is close to $10,000 per year. So that one story resulted in $260,000 in recurring annual revenue.

When I show this kind of information to leadership, I explain that while they may want TechCrunch, it does nothing for their business. Sure, there may be instances where we need TechCrunch, such as an investment raise or the executives doing something meaningful or needing to build awareness among the analyst and investment industries, 

I ask if they’d rather us spend our time on the maybe two stories a year we can get from TechCrunch or the partnership we can create with their trade publication that will result in something monthly with them—and drive recurring revenue.

I think we all know what the answer is, but if we just present website traffic as the end metric—or even number of stories placed—it doesn’t tell the full story, nor does it show our value in real dollars and cents.

Track Attribution Against Goals

I realize every business is different and you may not be able to track results like this in other comms programs, but you CAN track attribution and better understand how the work you’re doing does eventually result in affecting company goals

When we only track the number of stories placed, social media engagement, customer sentiment, and the number of fans and followers, we’re doing a major disservice to ourselves. 

Even if you don’t have attribution tracking set up, or have a team of data scientists at your disposal, you can set up Google Analytics to give you this kind of information, particularly if you have specific goals tied to your efforts (such as form fills, blog subscribers, or requesting information). Google also has a newly released attribution model that can begin to give you the information you need to demonstrate real results.

We use the team at Trust Insights to set all of this up for us and our clients. When we bring on a new client, one of the first things we do is have Trust Insights look at their data to see if there are any gaps, particularly around the kinds of things we need to track.

It’s not a small investment, but it’s worth every single penny. They will help you report against your goals in a meaningful way that will create longevity and have you heralded by other departments.

Far, far better than reporting on the number of stories placed and stopping there.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich