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How successful PR pros measure their efforts

Earned media and PR are essential to building a brand, growing revenue, and avoiding large cost issues, but leaders still struggle to measure the impact of their work.

For PR pros, metrics such as impressions, likes, and shares have been easier to quantify than leads generated, shopping cart conversions, and sales won, with the latter three measures being the most meaningful in terms of business impact for earned media. The difficulty we face in generating exact numbers for these metrics can lead to a lack of confidence in our ability to communicate ROI. According to a Cision report on performance marketing, 70% of B2B marketers would shift more of their budgets to PR if it could be related to financial impact.

Fortunately, technological advances now allow us to quantify digital public relations. According to the 2018 Global Comms Report: Challenges and Trends, 16% of comms leaders devote at least 20% of their annual budgets to measurement, a 5% increase from last year’s survey. This is proof that companies are more devoted than ever to measurement, monitoring, and analytics, which extend holistically to include earned media, and PR specifically.

So how are we measuring our efforts now? What are the tools and skills involved? Successful PR pros have both the aptitude and software to facilitate supplemental approaches in order to contribute to relevant business objectives. Here are some of the specifics.

Cross-discipline PR

In our data-driven world, it is increasingly important for PR pros to work cross functionally.

This means to be successful we need to be traditionally skilled but also eager to work with data, so we can effectively break down new insights. Observing communication results in real time, we can quickly sift through the clutter to find the most useful bits of actionable information. Overall, we must have the statistical intelligence to quantify the impact of our work on the general goals of the organization.

The marketing-comms relationship

Modern communicators measure their efforts in coordination with marketing and sales. Data covers such a large swath of what we all do, making it all the more crucial to have an integrated relationship with other departments — and increasingly impossible for one group to exist in isolation.

Social media creates many content streams running at the same time, which can cause different reactions in consumers. Therefore, our ability to generate accurate numbers that relate to business goals depends on interdependency. Cision’s performance marketing reports indicate that 43% of B2B marketers would shift more of their budgets to earned media if it were better integrated with other channels.

By displaying all the data in one place, Cision’s Communication Cloud helps to do just that. This is good news for everyone but especially for comms professionals who work with earned media, as true measurement gives them the opportunity to be part of the marketing pie.

Attribution analysis

PR pros know their value to the organization as a whole, but proving that value can be hard. Today, only half of PR pros have data that gives them a strong sense of whether there was any real-world behavior driven from their content. Fortunately, attribution analysis is a method that effectively synthesizes earned media data that was not previously measurable.

This software includes an invisible watermark on every digital news item covering a company, brand, and/or product. The mark is permanent and follows individual readers from news page to website while identifying each level of interaction. For example, if a reader spends time on an article and then downloads a form from the related brand website, the software records that trail of action.

It also makes it possible to confirm engagement with total certainty by recording valid info from the consumer’s IP address. This includes important demographic and firmographic info such as age, gender, annual income, and education level, or company size and revenue. We can then utilize this info to better reach our target audiences. True measurement via attribution connects PR directly to objectives in the sales funnel, thus making PR relevant to the organization as a whole.

Integration and earned media management

Attribution analysis is a crucial new method, but it still needs to be integrated with the existing comms foundation, which has traditionally benefited from qualitative measures such as sentiment and reputation with influencers or spokespeople. Successful PR pros keep what they know in mind while furthering new earned media management solutions. This means using attribution to improve storytelling as a whole. We can gather data from video plays, image views, document opens, and downloads, and also monitor digital earned media clicks and clickthroughs.

All these metrics enable us to look at the overall landscape and tailor our efforts to what will be most effective for our brand. It also puts the focus on the audience rather than influencers and journalists. This helps maintain a continuous and targeted approach toward consumers and their interactions, which are ultimately most important to the business.

Communications cycle and beyond

With the ability to determine metrics such as lead generation and conversions from earned media, attribution is invaluable to PR pros. We can use this data to assess performance after campaigns, or even develop monthly and quarterly reviews. Using this new technology and methodology to discover and organize metrics determines our importance to the communications cycle as a whole. We can finally embrace storytelling while proving its impact on business objectives.

Download the 2018 Global Comms Report: Challenges and Trends.

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