It’s no big secret that many PR firms find it difficult to measure and demonstrate Return on Investment (ROI). In fact, some firms now have full-time staff members who do little more than track the engagement of their campaigns and report back the impact of PR on their clients’ bottom line.
For some, this is an indication that the PR business has lost its way. For others, it is a natural progression. In a business environment increasingly dominated by data and metrics, it is true, PR agencies can’t afford to be left behind when it comes to measuring their impact. And, just as many of the ways in which PR agencies can demonstrate ROI rely on technical measures of success, many of the tools deployed to collect this data are also technical.
In this article, we’ll look at five key ways in which you can take advantage of tech tools to measure the impact of your campaigns, which allows you to prove to your clients that you are worth their hard-earned cash.
1. Track your media placements
Despite the range of services now offered by most PR agencies, plenty of clients hire an agent with a fairly limited remit in mind—to improve public visibility of their brand through media mentions. Because of that, most PR companies have in place a pretty good system for tracking when and where their clients are mentioned in the mainstream media.
Today, though, it’s a little more complicated than just counting press mentions. Effectively measuring your ROI means paying attention not only to Good Morning America or the New York Times. Today, local media mentions are just as likely to lead to increased sales for your client as mentions in large, national news sources.
For that reason, if you haven’t already invested in an advanced media monitoring tech, you should. There are plenty of media monitoring tools now available that will give you a detailed, hour-by-hour breakdown of when and where your clients have been mentioned. These tools can also help assess the true value of these mentions and might even help you to develop new strategies for generating further press coverage.
2. Encourage reviews
An often overlooked measure of ROI for PR firms is the number of reviews that you can generate for your clients. Though some more traditional clients might be skeptical about the value of these, they may become less so when you point out that when marketing to millennials the value of product and service reviews is well established and hard to overestimate.
This is not just because millennials read reviews before they make a purchase, though they do. It’s also because reviews form an important bridge between the different elements of your campaign—and specifically between social media marketing and website content. As such, they are one of the most effective ways to get the highest ROI out of social media marketing.
Thankfully, most CMS systems now offer the functionality required to count the reviews you generate and code them according to whether they are positive or negative. Just make sure that you are counting them and including the results in your next client report.
3. Use web analytics
Most online businesses still regard their traffic, DR, and referral rates as a primary measurement of online advertising success. This means that, for PR firms looking to prove their ROI, focusing on web analytics can be an effective way of speaking the same language as your clients.
Unfortunately, measuring the extra traffic generated by a PR campaign can be tricky. The reason for this is largely technical. It relates to the fact that clients might be unwilling to share detailed web analytics with their PR firm. Here, technology can help, because by moving to a shared analytics platform you will be able to share this data. This is, in fact, one of the clearest benefits of migrating to the cloud for PR firms.
4. Track SEO
A related set of problems arise when looking to track the impact of your PR campaigns on the SEO of your clients’ websites. If you are running great campaigns, it’s likely that your clients will see their SEO rankings shoot up as they get more high-quality media mentions.
Unfortunately, they may forget to connect this improvement to your activities.
For PR firms looking to prove their ROI, this means that looking more closely at the performance of individual pieces of content is crucial. If you can show, for example, that a particular piece of content resulted in a high number of customer referrals directly from a high-quality website, you can help a client visualize the connection between your activities and the numbers they look at every day.
There are, again, plenty of tools that can help perform this kind of tracking, but often the best approach is the most direct. It’s possible to use the tools you already have—SEM Rush, or even Ahrefs—to perform this kind of tracking, and a few hours spent learning how to do so is time well spent.
5. Improve sales
Last but definitely not least, it’s worth making an attempt to connect your activities to the sales that your clients are seeing. For many PR firms, this is difficult, as many factors contribute to a successful sale. The consumer or enterprise might read about your product and take a different sales route to your business. The new customer might call your business after reading an online story or Google your business after watching a report on TV. The paths aren’t always as clear as a paid click that goes directly to your site.
It’s therefore important to take a creative approach. Critical thinking, data, creativity, intuition and even common sense must all work together to drive new business. If you see a spike in foot traffic or call volume and there’s no data to support the increased volume other than a recent news story, let the right side of the brain and common sense win the battle on how that sale came to pass.
The bottom line
Ultimately, both you and your client will know when a campaign is working and when it is not. Putting hard numbers on that success can be useful, but you also shouldn’t calculate ROI too quickly. By putting in place the tools you need to measure ROI, you’ll be ready for a future that will be increasingly data-driven and never stops evolving.