Top PR agencies know that metrics-driven pr is an essential strategy for marketing and communications. In today’s digital information environment, where the number of channels and platforms for reaching audiences directly grows every year, it is tempting to ignore more traditional methods like public relations for positioning a brand and engaging with prospective buyers and influencers. Nevertheless, traditional public relations and media outreach that seeks placements and coverage in print and online publications remains one of the most valuable assets in a marketers mix of activities for the simple reason that it both provides air cover for the sales and marketing teams and has the potential to position a brand as a strong thought leader in a crowded marketplace.
Sales and marketing teams, as well as top executives rightfully continue to ask difficult questions to justify the cost of a successful public relations program because it is so difficult to assign revenues and leads directly to public relations efforts. This is not a new issue, but with so many other options that can be tied directly to lead generation, top public relations agencies know they need to have strong metrics to validate the effectiveness of their programs.
At Bluetext, we have been practicing metrics-driven PR since we launched our agency seven years ago. The reason is not that it’s a way to justify the expense of using a top PR firm, but more importantly, because it gives us a real-time ability to manage every PR campaign we launch for our clients, and to make quick adjustments to improve results. The alternative is to launch and execute a program without any idea of the impact on what matters most to clients: increased leads and higher revenues. The challenge, of course, is what to measure that will provide real insight into the results that matter.
Here, then, are our top tips for designing a metrics-driven PR program:
- Be in close alignment with the client on what to measure. Clients don’t often know how to assess the effectiveness of a public relations campaign. That’s why it’s important to be pro-active and develop the metrics that count before you launch a program. Don’t only identify what you will measure, but what the goals of the program are, and make sure you have agreement and buy-in with the client before moving forward.
- Choose quality over quantity. The public relations industry is still struggling to get over its dot.com era hangover of dialing-for-dollars – going after any mention in any article in any publication as a sign of a successful campaign. That wasn’t true in 1999, and it certainly is not the case now. Mentions in publications or websites that are far afield from targeted influencers and decision-makers don’t move the needle and don’t generate leads. It’s more important to have fewer articles as long as those articles are in the right publications and demonstrate thought leadership on topics relevant to the client’s products or services.
- Bylined placements should be part of the mix. It wasn’t that long ago that client-supplied content was viewed as too much like advertising and therefore was not well-received by target audiences. Today, customers would actually rather hear about insights and experiences from executives and subject matter experts from solution providers who have hands-on experience. We’re not saying this should make up all of the coverage, but it’s a valuable part of the mix.
- Take a baseline measurement across all metrics at the beginning of the program. You need to know where you are starting from. In some cases, for example, if there hasn’t been a program in place previously, you may be starting from zero. In other cases, the client may have a well-established footprint in the market already on which to build.
- Follow that up with quarterly progress reports. Don’t leave your clients or your own team guessing about the progress of a metrics-driven PR program. Honest reporting on a regular basis that allows for tweaks, adjustments, or a wholesale redesign will show a commitment to reaching the right results.
- Put the time into your measuring tools. The best metrics platforms require Boolean logic to deliver meaningful analytics and insights. Don’t take shortcuts – put the time into developing the right search queries and analyses against competitors and the market in general to generate meaningful metrics that can be evaluated and leveraged for the program.
A successful metrics-driven PR program takes time and hard work, but the payoff is a campaign that achieves the goals not only of the public relations team but also of the sales, marketing and executive teams across the organization. In subsequent posts, we’ll discuss some specific case studies and the metrics applied to measure the results.