In the digital and mobile era, attributing value to PR can be difficult because the customer journey is complex. Constantly connected and awash with information, today’s consumers and B2B decision makers will be exposed to your business across many channels and content types, so how do you demonstrate what came from earned media?
Arguments over which type of content is "better" reflect siloed thinking. Instead, leverage the power of digital to measure and demonstrate your PR efforts. When we understand what content customers value, PR can work to create additive, influential experiences that set brands apart.
Here are ways to demonstrate PR’s value to your organization:
1. Modernize How You Organize Your PR efforts
The communicator’s funnel is a way of organizing things the PR practitioner already knows to track, as they understand the importance of measuring social amplification, influence, pipeline conversions, revenue, mentions, total coverage, etc.. But those need to be organized on a modern framework if you are going to make them comprehensible across an organization.
That’s the purpose of the Communicator's Funnel.
This framework organizes things into three levels. The first is brand impact, which focuses on capturing an organization’s impact on awareness, mindshare, and reputation with metrics like headline mentions, share of voice, and sentiment. All very familiar territory. It’s the next step is the funnel that adds a new level of digital but still builds on the same measurement principles practitioners have always used. Now, it’s just a bigger conversation about website traffic and other digital properties.
The final level of the funnel, the bottom-line, is the piece that has the strongest tie to your efforts, but the parts above are necessary foundational metrics to prove bottom-line impact. Frame around each of these levels, brand, digital, and bottom-line, creates a crisp and straightforward conversation that even a C-level executive can understand.
2. Align PR Outcomes With Company Goals
The first step to demonstrating PR’s value is to understand what the company’s goals are for the year and then map your PR strategy (and spend) to those objectives. Overall company objectives for the year are often broad and vary greatly by organization. Some common themes are: expand into international markets, launch “X” number of new products, complete a re-branding, increase customer retention, grow new business sales, control cost of new business acquisition, etc. The goal is to give the organization a few KPI’s to align their efforts to, not guide the tactical implementation of strategy within each department.
Once you know what data points are important to your org, you can craft a narrative of how PR can help accomplish the objectives, the data points you need to report on to ensure the plan is working and the budget/technology you will need to deliver both the results and the data.
3. Provide Strategic Insights & Actionable Data
PR can provide strategic insights that no other department can because earned media is the most trusted source of information (yes this is still true in today’s world of ‘fake news’). PR is also uniquely positioned to be an unexpected source of both industry and competitive information.
With the right tools, the PR practitioners can provide insight into industry trends, popular topics, competitive plays, key influencers, and more.
With strategic insight, PR takes center stage by providing competitive benchmarks from similar marketing activities, historical benchmarks, or even best in class benchmarking.
In demonstrating value across an organization, PR also has the ability to define and identify key influencers that can be targeted not just for press pitches but also for content pieces, partner marketing, and more.
4. Partner with Your Marketing Team
Can’t afford the tools necessary in today’s rapidly changing environment? Borrow the strategy behind proving ROI of the marketing tech stack to help prove the value of technology for PR. Here are a few ways to can leverage existing marketing technology for your PR efforts:
Publish Press Releases to a Blog
As discussed above, publishing press releases over the wire is one of the easiest activities that a PR pro can participate in. But pay attention. Rather than sticking to just the wire, post them to a company blog or start a new blog just for press releases. The digital/SEO person will love it because it creates high quality on-site content that can be shared and backlinked to. The PR team can then use links to the press release in targeted outreach.
Use Email Outreach Software to Automate Pitching
Sales, Market Development, or Sales Development teams are probably using an email outreach program like Hubspot Sales (free version you can use) or Outreach.io that PR practitioners should leverage for targeted journalist outreach. Start by using a solution to find influencers and journalists targeted to by topic and audience. Then make a list of these influencers and a template of any pitch that is easily customizable.
Email outreach tools like Hubspot Sales will allow you to upload an email pitch template and a list of press contacts then send 1 to 1 personalized emails based on the story pitch template. The best part of conducting outreach and pitching this way is that it’s trackable down to understanding everyone who opens and clicks-through on an email.
Partner with the Web Analytics Team
The web analytics team has a treasure trove of information on who is visiting the organization’s website, what they do once they get there, and what drove them in the first place. Check out this great presentation on “Web Analytics Vital Role in Communications” to dive deep into the ways PR can leverage this data to prove their ROI and refine their strategy.
5. Prove Earned Media ROI
The strongest point to make is, “What will I get for the money I spend?” AKA - what will the ROI of this investment be? Vanity metrics like share of voice and AVE will not prove the ROI of PR. You will need to drill down a level deeper and connect your efforts to the KPI’s your organizations knows will drive results.
Here are are a few ways to prove the ROI of your PR efforts:
- Website Referral Traffic Driven by Earned Media
- Website Goal Conversions Driven by Earned Media
- PR Attribution: Measurement of all traffic driven by media mentions (no backlink needed)
- Deals influenced by earned media
With the rapidly changing public relations environment, it’s becoming more important for to demonstrate value, but attribution is no small task. Quantifying PR’s efforts in a way the organization understands can seem insurmountable, but organizing your efforts to a more modern way of thinking, like the Communicator’s Funnel, and aligning PR’s goals with company goals create a strong foundation for what needs to be measured.
These 5 tips are meant as a starting point. Build on them, evolve them, shape them, and create a measurement structure that brings an ever-greater sense of importance and accountability to public relations.