PR is a tricky field. Hypothetically, PR campaigns are great ways to improve the public image and recognizability of your brand, but how can you tell whether they’re working? Some of the results of your campaign, such as heightened brand recognition in the general public, are difficult to measure objectively. Others are nearly impossible to track on a consistent basis. At the same time, you’re spending thousands, tens of thousands, or even more money on a robust PR campaign. So how can you tell if all that investment is worth it?
A real-time data dashboard
You can start by setting up a real-time data dashboard for your PR campaign. Real-time data dashboards work by pulling in numbers from a variety of different sources in a live manner; that way, you can look up metrics and view graphs as they change in real-time. For example, you can publish a new press release, then directly observe how your numbers change in the hours that follow its publication.
This is especially useful if you’re tracking large numbers of people, or if you want to see how responsiveness patterns change over time.
Make sure you’re tracking not just media mentions, but also media impressions. If you publish a press release with a major publication and it reaches the top of their front page, figure out how many people visit that page on a daily basis. How many people are seeing your brand’s name mentioned in each of these outlets? How many people are actually reading the piece?
Obviously, this metric is limited in what it can tell you. For example, it can’t tell you how people respond to the news, but it can tell you that people are seeing it. Combined with other metrics, it can be incredibly valuable.
You should also make it a point to measure how your web traffic changes over time.
There are many different segments to consider:
- Direct recurring traffic. First, take a look at how much direct traffic you’re getting, and how much of this direct traffic includes recurring visitors. If people are steadily visiting your website on their own more frequently, it’s a sign of an improving reputation.
- Referral traffic. You should also look at referral traffic, which measures the number of people who visit your site after clicking a link in an external site. This is especially important if you do a lot of publishing work on other sites.
- Social traffic. If your PR strategy leans heavily on social media, social traffic is incredibly important to track. How many people are visiting your website from social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn?
- Organic traffic. Finally, figure out how much organic traffic you’re receiving; this traffic represents people who visit your site after discovering it via search engines. It’s especially important to view the number of people conducting searches for branded terms.
Social media mentions and engagement
How much activity are you getting on social media? How many people are mentioning your brand name organically? How many people are reaching out to your brand or engaging with it directly? There are a variety of tools that can help you measure your social media influence, and all of them can help you get a better sense of the effectiveness of your PR campaign.
PR isn’t just about raising awareness about your own brand; it’s also about finding a way to get an edge over your competition. Accordingly, you should also research the competitive share of brand mentions, engagements, and other measurable metrics your brand is getting. In other words, how often is your brand being mentioned online, compared to mentions of your competitors’ brands?
One of the oldest and most valuable ways to track progress in a PR campaign is to conduct consumer surveys, which allow you to tap into audience opinions and experiences directly. There are a multitude of things you can ask your customers and prospects.
- Brand recognition. How many people within a given audience segment are able to recognize your brand? Are they familiar with your products and services?
- Brand reputation. What is your brand reputation? How do people feel about your brand? Do they see you as trustworthy, or as a leader in the industry? How do you compare to the competition?
- Other info. Would this customer be willing to do business with you? What other factors might influence their position?
If you want to improve your ability to measure the results of your PR campaign, you’ll need to invest time and effort into your data analytics approach. Take some time to experiment with different angles, and measure different metrics; eventually, you’ll come up with a system that works for your brand and your specific goals.