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Prove the worth of your PR efforts with data and analytics

Posted by Jared Cave, Senior Data & Analytics Consultant, Tuesday February 11 2020

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Over recent years, data science has emerged as one of the biggest and most significant trends in technology and business. Though it isn’t a new practice, advancements in computing, the increasing vastness of data and our access to it, has seen data science drive digital-transformation and offer new resolutions to old problems. Its application is widespread from self-driving cars to voice-enabled devices to more accurate, automated, BI reporting solutions. We’d be hard-pressed to find an industry that hasn’t begun to harness its power to uncover valuable insights, build better products and services or optimise operational processes. But what about PR?

Traditionally, measuring the success of PR campaigns has been difficult since the response isn’t always direct or immediate. Where marketers and advertisers have been early adopters, the PR industry still tends to favour time-honoured methods for calculating its impact. But in a day and age where we leave a digital footprint for almost everything we do, perhaps there are more conclusive methods for measuring the impact of PR?

According to a survey conducted by PRWeek and Cision, 75% of communications professionals admit they must do a better job of measuring their activity and proving its impact on business objectives. Measurements such as Advertising Value Equivalent or, reach and circulation in isolation, are widely regarded as insufficient.

Marketers managing paid channels can provide clear metrics which demonstrate the output of their efforts. This is crucial when competing for marketing budgets. PR professionals and agencies who fail to prove their value to an organisation, limit their justification as part of a marketing strategy. 

In order to effectively measure and evaluate the success of PR first, some key performance indicators, or KPIs, must be established. To do so, a goal must be agreed and KPIs must be aligned. Is the goal to increase sales, improve conversion rates, reach a new audience or attract investment? An effective measurement strategy will clearly define KPIs to take the ambiguity out of tracking performance against a business’ goals. Social engagement, sentiment, web traffic, key message penetration, conversion percentages, etc are valuable, quantifiable KPIs that can prove the value of PR.

A step that is sometimes neglected is benchmarking. It is important to review these same KPIs in retrospect in order to set a baseline. For some KPIs this can be difficult if a proper measurement framework hasn’t already been implemented. Take for example conversion rates. If a business hasn’t previously tracked conversions successfully, using this as a KPI could limit the integrity of such a measure. It might make better sense to choose another KPI, or depending on where you are in the process, begin tracking prior to commencement of your new PR program. Assessing KPIs over time is the best way to understand your impact on key business goals. So it is important to avoid fixating on a particular point-in-time.

Once a proper measurement framework is in place, you must select your tools for the job. There are many things to consider in doing so but what’s most important is that results are tracked and reported in an accurate, timely manner. Real-time analytics give you the opportunity to monitor results on the fly and access what you are doing well and where you can do better before it’s too late. Which tools you choose to use will depend on your KPIs. If you are tracking sentiment do you go with Hubspot or do you build your own NLP tool? If you are tracking conversions do you go with Kissmetrics or Google Analytics? You must also consider how these integrate with your centralised reporting tool. Whilst so many options exist on the market, this can be a difficult job in itself. 

However, as long as the tech stack you choose enables you to gather relevant data and share your results and insights in a way which engages your clients and stakeholders, you’ll be able to clearly show the success of your efforts. Getting this right won’t just help you display the worth of your program, but it should also reduce the man-hours required to measure results, freeing up time to focus on doing the things you love.

As we all become more digitally-savvy and business becomes more data-centric, ensuring your results are measurable and backed by data is vital. Ultimately businesses that fail to adapt to this new landscape run the risk of being left behind. Having an effective measurement strategy is the only way to prove the ROI from PR effects and secure its place in a business’ marketing strategy.

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