It’s no secret that the public relations industry receives a bad rep for how it demonstrates its value in terms of sales and consumer interest. I don’t necessary disagree with that statement. Who actually looks at online impressions anymore as a metric?
Before I made the career switch to focus on digital influence and social media marketing, I spent the early part of my career in public relations. I smiled and dialed every morning, faxed media alerts to TV news stations, and pushed rolling racks filled with clothes across New York City for editor market appointments. To top it all off, I was the one compiling client recaps and reports to show our success. Similarly to most PR agencies, we showed our value with the number of impressions generated, which means the number of times the story could have been potentially seen. I didn’t understand the value then, and I don’t fully get it now.
I feel the PR industry should update their metrics and adapt to new forms of measurement, like how many times an article has been shared via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. In the instance of eCommerce, PR can show tremendous value, however, it’s just that few understand that language to properly show PR’s value. I complied a basic list of tips to explain how PR can better show its value.
- Understand PR is a form of social media, SEO, and content marketing: Instead of viewing PR with the old school mentality of press releases and pitching reporters, try to predict the story’s outcome the best you can by carefully crafting your pitches without the heavy marketing speak and buzzwords to get quality placements. Google started to place more importance on quality of the content and premium sites linking to your client. Therefore you currently have to secure quality stories to have an impact on how Google will rank your client’s page.
- Get familiar with back-end analytics: Whether it’s Google Analytics, Mix Panel, or some other tool, get familiar with it. Traditional PR agencies normally stay out of this area but if you can understand spikes in traffic and conversion rates during the same period of a PR blitz and have the ability to show the connection to major press hits, your client will appreciate your services more.
- Understand the consumer-shopping journey: This is actually a common problem in most industries. Most people will only assess a marketing initiative and its effects on direct sales, and completely ignores how many assisted conversions were created from those same efforts.
- Identify the connections: If your major press hit or big time blogger didn’t generate traffic, look at how many times that story was shared. For example, was it RT 100 times or shared on Facebook 500 times? If so, look to see if there was an increase in traffic via social media to convey that placements did assist with traffic even though it’s not clear to see.
I have a better chance at explaining the value of a story placement to a C-level executive when I tell them that a story was shared by 1,000 people within 30 minutes, which lead to 500 more visitors that day to the website versus this story was potentially seen by 1 million online users. Of course, this would only apply to the online world, which is where I feel my expertise is best suited.
When it comes to clients’ bottom line—sales—PR agencies should find more of a way to show their value by understanding the consumer journey and how news stories affect SEO, social media, referrals, and overall direct traffic and sales conversion. This is probably a result of my experience working with ecommerce and retail clients, but there are lessons PR professionals can walk away with in terms of adding their value to the marketing mix.