We’ve been discussing the challenges of measuring the effectiveness of PR campaigns for well over a decade. But the good news is, as the lines between digital and PR become increasingly blurred, measuring impact is getting somewhat easier thanks to advancements in technology.
We recently shared a helpful short guide for marketers on measuring the value of PR, which is a great starting point to establish what exactly you should be measuring. But, beyond setting the right metrics and tangible KPIs, it’s important to ensure PR activity is actually contributing to wider business objectives otherwise, what’s the point in investing time and budget into something that may not be having any impact at all?
If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, improve sentiment/the reputation of the business, or educate consumers on new legislation for instance, measurement tools and tactics will look considerably different to they would when the primary objective is lead generation, building relationships amongst key stakeholders or increasing engagement.
But, what tools and tactics are currently making waves across the industry to better measure the success of PR campaigns and what could you be doing differently?
The benefits of benchmarking studies
Wouldn’t it be great to know how we’re actually faring against our competitors from a PR and comms standpoint? In recent years, benchmarking studies have enabled marketers and PRs to do just that, to gain a better understanding of what’s working and what isn’t to ultimately determine if campaigns are proving effective. Benchmarking enables you to look beyond more traditional methods of measurement to gauge a more in-depth snapshot of share of voice and key message penetration against the wider industry, competitors and even your own previous campaigns, ensuring your campaigns are performing and activity is proving successful.
By investing in benchmarking, you can ensure the metrics you’re setting for your organisation are actually meaningful, while gaining valuable anecdotal intel on what’s working and what isn’t, to grow your organisation’s share of voice within the conversations that matter the most.
Utilising artificial intelligence (AI)
Advancements in technology are disrupting just about every sector on the planet and the world of PR measurement is no different. Be it sentiment analysis, key message inclusion, media mentions or identifying trends, AI is paving the way when it comes to effectively measuring some elements of campaign impact pretty much instantly and cost-effectively. Machines have the ability to provide PRs with much deeper insights on media coverage in a timely manner. However, it’s important to remember this technology still has flaws and upon taking a deeper dive into areas such as brand perception, it’s important to adopt this form in tandem with a human approach and some element of manual analysis for accurate insights.
AI is however great when it comes to quickly getting a snapshot of coverage sentiment, mentions and reach, while also providing insight on share of voice in comparison to competitors.
Traditionally, PRs measured their success based on outputs (e.g. number of press releases issued, social posts published etc.), but this approach doesn’t take into account the actual impact activity is having on a business – which is why the team here at Refresh, steered away from this approach some time ago.
While linking media coverage to business outcomes can be somewhat challenging, it’s an increasingly important requirement for marketers and businesses alike. We know PR and comms are rarely not operating in isolation of other marketing activity, however by setting more tangible/specific KPIs you can really take a more outcomes-based approach to measurement, looking at the impact communications are actually having on achieving wider business objectives. Just some of the outcomes-based metrics we focus on include, increased website traffic, sales leads generated, new introductions, uplift in revenue, increased following and engagement across social channels, and improved share of voice.
Brand lift studies
For digital and social campaigns specifically, brand lift studies are a great way to delve into the impact of your digital advertising, especially shifting perception, ad recall, brand awareness and consideration. They enable marketers to go beyond traditional impressions, clicks, engagement and views metrics, to uncover the effect content is having on target audiences, while establishing whether the digital ads are truly moving the needle.
When running digital ads on platforms like Google and Facebook, brand lift studies enable marketers to really hone in on consumer behaviours, as the platforms are able to survey a consumer sample from those eligible to see your ad on various factors including whether they remember seeing it and consideration/whether the ad sparked interest in the brand. This ultimately helps to determine the impact campaigns are having – and what’s working, plus what isn’t.
Market research to uncover audience perception
In depth market research is something we support many of our clients on as it enables them to get a detailed snapshot of their place in the market and how their target audience perceives them. Investing in this both before and after campaigns can be a great way to measure sentiment and any shifts in line with activity – especially if the primary objectives centre on brand awareness, education or thought-leadership.
Tracking successful content
If you’ve invested in a digital PR campaign and your key metrics centre on driving traffic back to your website, microsite, landing page or a specific online destination, UTM codes and trackable links are essential – especially if you’re using various tactics to achieve this. UTM codes can be added to the end of your URL and tailored, enabling you to measure what’s working and what isn’t, when it comes to driving traffic/clicks. Whether that’s a certain influencer you’re working with, eShots (owned or paid), digital ads, social posts or digital PR content, bespoke UTM codes allow you to establish which elements of your campaign are having the biggest impact.