Public relations is undoubtedly an art, but it’s also a science. Knowing how to collect, analyze, and interpret data allows you to identify key PR metrics rather than rely on subjective determinations of success.
While all the PR data that’s now available to us via the PRTech ecosystem may seem daunting to those who are not well-versed in analytics, proving the value of PR efforts doesn’t have to be a headache.
Here are three ways PR professionals can get more comfortable with data even if they don’t ogle over analytics.
1. Determine a focus before viewing PR data.
Before digging into PR data, think about your customer journey and the points along that journey that are purposefully affected by PR. For example, if your goal is to raise brand awareness, social media amplification and website traffic are key to track. Focus on the metrics tied to those areas.
This will give you a greater understanding of the PR data you’re viewing in the first place and how it supports your company’s business objectives. Focusing on specific areas from the beginning will also make reporting easier later on.
2. Allow the data to guide your discovery.
When data contradicts your suspicions of what’s working and what’s not, you might have a tough time accepting it as true. I like to call this PR data bias.
When the data tells you something surprising, dig into these points of interest further to discover insights that can be applied to future work. Chances are there will be a lot that surprises you if you’re just beginning to look at PR data and website analytics more regularly.
3. Incorporate use of data into your workflow.
This one seems obvious, but it’s an important reminder. The more you view data, the more comfortable you’ll become using it and creating data-driven PR strategies. The eventual goal is to create a cyclical process of campaigning, measurement, analysis and generation of insights which can inform your next campaign.
Once you change your perspective on measurement from “reporting results” to “a guide for next steps,” the entire process will become exciting. (I promise!)
Now that marketers are taking PR more seriously in terms of its ability to generate top-of-funnel leads and drive valuable brand awareness, the MarTech ecosystem has come to include PRTech solutions too. Yay for us! PRTech is no longer a lone wolf.
Here are a few top tactics inspired by Pelosi’s piece.
1. Start by prioritizing the outcomes associated with various marketing roles.
Viewing an organizational chart in tandem with the business outcomes associated with each marketing role can help you prioritize where to focus. From communications to demand generation roles, isolate the most business-critical outcomes these roles are responsible for so you can find the MarTech/PRTech solutions that support them.
Where are you looking to affect your business, and what do you need to measure, automate, or launch to accomplish those goals?
For example, if influencer sentiment is a priority for your pet product subscription service given your growth goals for this year, then you’ll know to hone in on B2B tools that can help you monitor influencer relations.
2. Consider B2B solutions with notable customer traction, ratings, and reviews.
In other words, which PRTech or MarTech solutions are used by a respectable number of customers? Does that company display customer testimonials on their website or case studies depicting how those customers have succeeded with said tool on their blog?
You can also take into account if the company you’re eyeing up is profitable or has raised several rounds of funding successfully — indicators that they’ll have the resources needed to offer commendable customer support (as opposed to working with a service that’s beta testing and may not have kinks worked out yet).
3. Consider the maturity of your marketing team.
Pelosi suggests evaluating how evolved your organization is with respect to digital marketing so you can find B2B solutions best suited to the needs associated with that maturity level.
“Stages of maturity are often defined as beginning, single channel, multi-touch, progressive, mature, world-class, etc.,” writes Pelosi. Here’s an example of a micro-landscape created for a mid-sized B2B technology company that is considered progressive.
Pelosi notes that the complexity of these micro-landscapes will increase depending on the complexity level of your evaluation process. “Using just the filters mentioned here would generate dozens of landscapes,” write Pelosi. “The complexity further increases as more marketing functions and outcomes are added.”
In short, the MarTech solutions you end up choosing should be considered integral and used across the organization given that they affect sales, customer support, and, yes, PR.
Don’t forget that MarTech includes PRTech, and PRTech = gold for today’s PR pros. You are a powerful arm of the marketing function and should have a say in the stack used by your organization.
Pitching journalists is a little like meeting with a hiring manager for a job you really want. Before you reach out or meet with them, you spend time researching the interests of someone you never met so you can better anticipate what will appeal to them.
But wouldn’t it be nice to get inside the head of a journalist so you can discover what motivates them to respond to your pitches? More often than not, whether they reply is one part quality of pitch, one part chance i.e., if their editor has been craving more of a certain type of article and you’ve hit the nail on the head.
The second best thing to being a fly on the wall in a journalist’s office is getting an intimate understanding of what excites them, which is why I sat down with serial journalist and media entrepreneur Lorraine Sanders.
You may recognize her from The San Francisco Chronicle, Women’s Wear Daily, and a number of other publications for which she’s written about FEST, a term Sanders coined for her coverage of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and technology.
Sanders’ most recent foray in the media takes shape as a podcast and media consultancy: Spirit of 608. Now that the podcast is more than a year strong, she sees the media landscape from seemingly every direction: print, digital, broadcast, and (the flipside) PR. She also recently launched PressDope, an interactive, community-driven alternative to working with agencies that’s catered to the specific needs of FEST companies.
Here, Sanders shares a bit about how her background as a journalist informs her work as a media entrepreneur, what brands can do to cultivate meaningful thought leadership, and a few things PR pros can do today to make her life as a journalist easier.
Rebekah Iliff: As a content-producing machine, which platforms do you feel are most effective for building a client’s reputation as a subject matter expert?
Lorraine Sanders: That definitely depends on the client and brand’s goals. But in every conversation I have about platforms and strategy, it always comes back to this: ultimately, the source of the original content, whether it’s posts on Medium or doing the speaking circuit, has to be comfortable and “into” the process. It’s all well and good to tell someone she’s got to write a guest contributor post for a major website once a week, but if she doesn’t actually connect with the process of doing that, it’s like pulling teeth for everyone involved.
As long as you’re picking a method and working on a consistent basis to become a real part of conversations that affect your industry, that’s far more effective than choosing a certain platform because it’s the hot place to be for the moment.
RI: Our data show that when a company is educating the market, showcasing customers, and ultimately being a helpful resource, the effectiveness of their content/PR increases exponentially. What’s one tip you have for helping a company cultivate a reputation of meaningful thought leadership?
LS: My best advice for brands is to be thoughtful, strategic, and targeted in what you produce. At a time when so many brands feel pressure to sell AND be content machines, it’s important to remember that it’s pretty unusual to be everywhere and do a really good job of it.
I am a big believer in the power of strategic collaboration through creative events and cross-marketing efforts. If you’re a mission-based brand, pooling efforts with other likeminded companies is a great way to introduce yourself to the exact audiences you want to reach. Often it’s much more interesting to journalists than whatever piece of news you happen to be touting at the moment because it signals something bigger than your company’s agenda is afoot.
RI: As a journalist, media strategist, and podcast producer at the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and tech, what is it about this hybrid space that excites you most?
LS: There are two primary reasons this space excites me. First, the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability and tech has the power to change the fashion industry for the better, and ultimately make fashion and apparel producers better global citizens.
After more than a decade writing about the fashion industry, it’s abundantly clear to me that change is needed in all areas from workers’ rights to environmental safety. Luckily, technology is revealing better methods of production and is making the ability to grow new brands not only feasible, but also attractive to independent entrepreneurs.
That brings me to the second thing I am really excited about: increasing entrepreneurship opportunities for women. It has never been easier to start a business and build a customer base around niche, creative products. That is extremely exciting and uplifting because of what it means for those who produce most of the world’s textiles and for women who deserve economic opportunity outside of the traditional corporate model.
RI: I love that you say you can’t live without the chance to hear and tell other people’s stories. How does storytelling fit into your workflow and can you give us an example of a recent brand story that blew you away?
LS: Pretty much every guest of theSpirit of 608 podcast has a brand story that fascinated me, and I try to bring entrepreneurs’ stories into what I do because, honestly, there’s always a good anecdote when a person has gone down the risky road of creating his or her own company.
I spoke withOlatorera Oniru, a female founder building a Nigeria-based ecommerce company that’s been called the Amazon of Africa. Her story is pretty incredible in and of itself, but it’s also eye-opening in terms of what entrepreneurship and technology could mean in many emerging and developing economies. I literally had chills after we spoke.
RI: Put your journalist hat on. What are a few things great PR pros do that make your life easier and your stories better?
LS: The best PR professionals I know have these things in common: they only contact me when they are convinced a story is right for me; they are aware of what I have written recently; and once we are working together, they are responsive and trust me to do my job i.e., they aren’t breathing heavily on the other side of the call I’m supposed to be having with just the source.
Public relations is undoubtedly an art, a careful craft that requires both finesse and creativity.
But along with the art comes science: the systematic knowledge gained through observation and experimentation. Without this, we miss important opportunities to tell compelling stories, impact audiences more effectively, and ultimately prove the value of PR to C-suite executives.
Fortunately, today’s PRTech platforms allow professionals to showcase how their stories impact both the brand and business, while gaining a keen understanding of the “science” of what they do.
But it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start, i.e., what to measure and why it matters. So to take some of the guesswork out of PR measurement, here’s an example of PRTech reporting to consider when quantifying the worth of your work in 2017.
PRTech Reporting Tip: Share of Voice compared to Power of Voice
Many PR professionals regularly conduct analyses of Share of Voice to track the amount of overall earned, owned, and newswire coverage their brand is receiving in comparison to competitors.
But showcasing Share of Voice side-by-side with Power of Voice – level of authority based on that content – can help to prove several things.
First, you can assess the quality of coverage. Second, you can use this data as a signal to further review your competitors’ coverage for insight into the publications, authors, and topics that are contributing to authority, the reputability/credibility associated with any piece of press coverage or content.
With this comparison, PR professionals can even prove the value of the time spent by an executive or spokesperson in contributing to earned media coverage.
Based on the data shown in this example, if Company 1 held a media tour with their CEO during the time period being tracked, they could go back to the executive and show the impact of their time on brand Share of Voice or level of authority.
This comparison shows that although Company 1 received less coverage than Company 2 during the designated time range, they still led in Power of Voice, meaning that their (hopefully) targeted outreach worked!
When reporting total placements and the outcomes of contributed content in 2017, keep ideas like this in mind. Use the vast data available to share common metrics alongside more advanced metrics to prove PR’s impact in a way that lets you draw valuable insights for next time.
Let me let you in on a little secret… Sometimes when we post here on the AirPR Blog, it’s a test! Over the summer, I published three LinkedIn Pulse articles, a series focused on busting the myths even the most data-driven PR professionals tell themselves.
As an experiment, we republished those articles with new titles and imagery here on the AirPR Blog. We found that the series garnered more likes and shares on LinkedIn Pulse. Does that mean that we won’t share this type of content on our blog anymore? Hardly!
While the articles provoked more engagement on LinkedIn (what read at surface level as the “real” success), being able to compare the data we gathered from publishing the articles on two different platforms allowed us to develop a range of new insights to fold into our evolving content strategy.
The point is that just because you perceive the outcome of one PR move as less impactful for your business than another doesn’t mean that the less impactful of the two wasn’t worth doing, a theory I echo in the first piece in the myth busting series.
So in an effort of “rewiring” our mentality about PR, let’s review those pesky myths.
PR Myth 1: It’s not okay to fail.
IMHO, trying new things and being okay with if they fail is a valiant commitment to learning. Think about marketers! They basically live and die by testing. If they go up to bat and strike out, there’s no pouting. They’ve already moved on to the next experiment by lunch time. What if PR professionals were this scientific? [Read the full post here.]
PR Myth 2: Once the story publishes, your work is done.
Far from it, my friends. Once you land or publish a piece of content, your work doesn’t stop there; some of the strongest signals lie within the responses to that content. Furthermore, there are a million ways to extend the shelf life of your content beyond what a reporter writes. [More on that here.]
PR Myth 3: More is better!
Just like with hot sauce, more is not better when it comes to PR measurement. The bottom line is that it’s no longer good enough to report on impressions, headline views, and AVEs. While these metrics are well and good activity-based metrics, they do nothing to help PR people understand what’s working or what to do next. [Let’s discuss… ]
Are we missing a PR myth? Tweet it to us @AirPR. We will be first in line to debunk!
Last week in New York, we held the third annual PRTech Awards honoring individuals who work to bring together PR, marketing, technology, and media. These individuals were selected from 100+ nominations.
For the last half decade, PR software providers have built technologies around third party data from web crawlers, social media sites, TV and radio broadcasts, and print media. Some PRTech companies have become overburdened with data and some have begun to consolidate. Today, a new wave of PRTech companies is coming forth.
Data is empowering the PR industry to refine content, extend reach, and prove value. Reporting on that data provides key audience insights for campaign planning and content production. Now is the time to harness the power of technological innovation to propel PR even further.
Enter Tae Hea Nahm, co-founding managing director of Storm Ventures. In SaaS/marketplaces, he has invested in marketing and revenue generation (Cloudwords, EchoSign/Adobe, Engagio, Marketo/IPO, and Scripted). At this year’s PRTech Awards, Tae Hea was interviewed by Gary Belsky, columnist at Money Magazine, to discuss why he invested in AirPR.
Tae Hea is a seasoned investor. He has incubated and hired the founders of AireSpace/Cisco and MobileIron. He recruited and funded Storm EIRs, including Jason Lemkin, founder of EchoSign, and Ilbok Lee, founder of Silego.
In a marketplace saturated with “me toos”, PRTech stands out as leading in measurement and analytics, with a strong pace towards AI. “Automation is key,” said Tae Hea. “We live in a time with not only tremendous amounts of data that overwhelms us, but we’re also responsible for making business decisions around that data.” The mission is to organize that data and allow proprietary technology to provide automation and insights to marketing and PR professionals.
With technologies that allow for more validation and measurement for PR and branding, marketers can measure the outcomes of their various outputs and connect them to business goals and revenue.
It’s an exciting time in the PRTech space and we’re excited to partner with experienced investors like Storm Ventures.
The PRTech ecosystem is quickly expanding with a plethora of tools to help communications professionals do their jobs better. Hopefully you’re taking advantage of these tools.
Measuring the success of a PR campaign is important. So is measuring how much time your team spent creating and implementing that campaign. This combination provides an understanding of input and output: time and resources invested, compared to what was gained from the campaign itself.
In this PRTech Pro Spotlight, I interview ClickTime CEO Alex Mann to address a challenge that almost every PR agency faces: how to manage projects as efficiently as possible and ensure that employees are spending their time effectively.
If you haven’t heard of ‘em, ClickTime is a time and expense management application designed for professional service firms such a PR and creative agencies. It’s one of the latest additions to our PRTech ecosystem, a list of platforms every PR professional should be aware of, if not actively using for more data-driven public relations.
Leta Soza: There’s a lot of innovation taking place across the PR industry. Why did you decide to focus on the challenges of the PR agency instead of the individual PR professional?
Alex Mann: When people think of public relations, it’s often in terms of the clients: creating content, fighting for media coverage, and measuring outcomes. There are some great tools available to track hits, monitor social media, manage relationships, etc., but there are very few tools available to promote the health of the agency itself.
We realized that it’s challenging for agency owners and managers to effectively manage costs, staff projects, and maximize revenue. Whether an agency is using a retainer-based model, hourly billing, or value-based pricing, there are many variables to contend with.
On top of that, employee availability fluctuates rapidly (with vacation time and sick leave), customer needs change quickly, and benchmarking project costs and time can be a struggle. That’s why we wanted to create a platform that makes it easier for agencies to operate efficiently.
LS: For PR agencies to ensure longevity and profitability, which problems/challenges are most important to solve?
AM: Reducing over-servicing, increasing employee efficiency, and retaining talent are essential for any successful agency. I think for long-term success, you need to address them all. Our area of expertise is in over-servicing.
If your employees are over-servicing, not only are they performing free work for your clients, but they also have less available hours to work on other projects. This has a significant impact on your team’s capacity to take on new work or to properly plan employee time in the future. It also leads to excessive staffing levels, which starves an agency of resources for growth.
LS: What productivity and time management benchmarks or KPIs are most important for PR agencies to track?
AM: High-performing agencies focus on employee utilization, employee capacity, and revenue per employee. They need to be measured accurately, goals should be set, and progress against those goals should be measured. These are such important metrics that agencies should consider linking them to performance reviews and compensation decisions.
LS: How do you stay abreast of the changes within the agency world and the greater PR industry in general?
AM: We’re very fortunate that we get to spend time with so many great agencies around the world. Our customers do a great job of informing us of their needs and sharing industry trends. We’re also partners with PR Council and PRSA, both of which offer excellent educational opportunities for technology companies like ClickTime.
LS: Give me an example of how you’ve helped an agency succeed.
AM: One of our newer customers, MMI Public Relations, has been able to more effectively allocate employee resources and manage client budgets through our platform. We’ve helped many agencies reduce administrative costs and improve operations across the board.
LS: Most recent thing you’ve read or watched that moved you?
AM: I recently completed “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant. It’s one of those great business books that has immediate application in other parts of your life. Grant helps you better understand the people surrounding you, in both professional and private realms, and focus on your interactions with them. The book affirms something many people know intuitively, but don’t always practice day-to-day — that generosity in relationships can foster success in life.
Let’s be honest. The typical PR person has an aversion to math.
Couple that with the fact that the PR industry has historically lacked the type of quantitative performance data that’s usually available to marketing teams, and you’re left with a large group of professional communicators who are prevented from tapping into insights that could help them perform better in their roles.
Here are some examples of common number-blunders. If you’re making these mistakes, you’re downplaying the role of PR:
For data to be statistically relevant, you need a sufficiently large sample size for your estimates to have reliable predictive value. Pitching survey data is a common area where this issue comes into play. For example, Penny the PR manager has a great idea for an internal communications survey about job satisfaction, but journalists are unlikely to justify using her data because the sample is simply not big enough to return meaningful results.
Math Mistake #2: Reporting % Growth
One of the most egregious positioning errors is when small companies pitch extremely high percentages as impressive growth rates. This often causes the adverse effect: instead of “Whoa, Company X crushed it last year!” the reader thinks: “Whoa, I had no idea Company X was that small to begin with.”
If Sammy’s String Cheese had $2,500 in sales in 2014 and $70,000 in sales in 2015, it would be mathematically true to say Sammy’s String Cheese grew 2700% despite a relatively small increase in revenue of just $67,500. When a bigger company goes from 10MM to 20MM, the growth figure is 100% but revenue is actually up by 10MM. Business-minded people get the nuances of this and gawk at those who don’t.
Math Mistake #3: Reporting % Change
A similar error occurs when calculating % change. If your employee count grows from 100 to 400 in a year, many people would eyeball that as 400% growth when it’s really 300% growth or 3x plus your original number. You can’t include your starting point as part of any growth you report. That’s just not how it works, folks.
Math Mistake #4: Believing in Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE)
Since much of the influence of PR is felt indirectly, the industry has struggled to develop effective proxy measurements to connect PR success to revenue-related figures. Sadly, AVE (also known as ACE or Advertising Cost Equivalency) is a proxy measurement that is prone to lead people astray.
For marketers, it’s much easier to arrive at reliable figures for return on investment. If you spent $100K on AdWords and sold $150K of product to people who clicked on the ads and converted, then your campaign returned 1.5x. Since most marketing measurement is based on link tracking, earned media, which rarely features links, is especially difficult to accurately measure in this way. (Only ~15% of all earned media includes backlinks.) Without links, there’s no way to determine direct causation.
Using AVE to assert that the cash value of earned media is proportional to the amount of money a brand would have paid in order to purchase advertising is incorrect for so many reasons. What you pay for something is not necessarily what it’s worth.
Math Mistake #5: Overvaluing Impressions
Impressions sound the most impressive, but while representing the total number of people who could have seen a given piece of content does provide some insight into your ability to reach large numbers of people, impressions do not tell you whether or not you’ve accomplished a business goal.
You can use one gallon of water or 10 gallons of water to wash your hands after handling bacon. Though 100 gallons sounds like it could give you a better chance of accomplishing your goal of cleaning your hands, if you don’t have any soap, more water isn’t going to help much. If your approach is ineffective, no amount of impressions will drive increased performance.
What you need to know is what works. Even if the number of PR-driven conversions is just 100, therein lies the answer to improving PR performance. What content, publications, or messages were most successful? That’s the important question. Not, “How can I reach the largest number of people with a message I can’t be certain is influencing anyone?”
No one’s perfect, and we all have room to grow in certain areas of our professions. But if you’re a PR pro, you don’t have to fall victim to the embarrassingly common math mistakes outlined above. Rest assured that there are tools today that can help you effectively measure the worth of PR, and remember that it’s all about asking the right questions.
How are you ensuring that your efforts are impactful?
Ahhh, the new year. A time for resolutions, preparations, and perhaps my favorite: bright-eyed predictions.
Our propensity to look toward the future through lens of the past is as necessary to the human experience as breathing.
Not wanting to be left out (FOMO alert. BTW that word is so last year. What you really need to know is the correct usage of “On Fleek.” Thank you Meredith Fineman for keeping me relevant), I have pulled together everything a PR person may have done in 2015 that they don’t need to do anymore, while giving y’all some guidance for 2016.
Here’s whatchya don’t need to do anymore…aka not OnFleek:
1. Call journalists you don’t know out of the blue thinking they will call you back or be happy that you called. They won’t.
2. Report “headline impressions” or “AVEs” as key metrics. This is a spank-worthy practice. Very bad.
3. Be afraid that what you offer as a professional isn’t as important as other aspects of the marketing function (did someone say advertising, digital, social?). It is so so so important. I promise.
4. Write masturbatory press releases for the express purpose of making some key executive happy because (s)he likes the sound of her own voice or likes to see his name in quotes. Blech. Stop it, puuhlease.
5. Believe that you are supposed to like analytics and numbers, when in fact, you probably never will. That’s ok. But it’s an important part of the PR function so figure out a hack for it. Hire someone. Find someone to partner with who likes this aspect of it. Then soar to the moon with data in hand.
Now for the goods.
Here are a handful of trends to be aware of in the coming year. I cannot take credit for coming up with these. I simply stole narrowed down themes based on this Hotwire Communications Trend Report.
Here’s what is On Fleek for 2016:
1. For B2B, LinkedIn Pulse and Medium are a boon for marketing and PR and will continue to gain traction as leading publishing platforms.
2. To compete against all the noise, go for depth and targeted campaign content. What? I know, being deep rules. Being superficial doesn’t.
3. Brands are shifting focus to “Association” rather than “Advertising”. The argument here: LIFE by association.
4. Influencer endorsements will become even more important. If you can’t get them organically, brands will have to pay for them. TIP: Check out our friends at Thuzioor any of the incredible PRTech companiesplaying in this space.
5. Culture is shifting to “Ephemeral Content” and not needing to keep a lasting record of everything. THANK GOD.
6. Hyperlocal content and hyperlocalreporting will gain even more traction as this type of content tends to attract specific (subset) audiences. EXAMPLE: BuzzFeed’s model of 22 things you’ll only know if you’re from X.
7. Data first: PR pros need to include datain the content planning phase then track all the way through outcomes. Execs are demanding this.
8. Virtual Reality heats up and meets the desire for data as well as brand experiences. Survios is sooo on this. #ShamelessBigSisPlug.
9. Corporate Social Responsibility and brand activism continue to lead company messaging: “Values don’t (or shouldn’t change) and have a tremendous effect on the growth of a company.” Just ask Qualcomm Wireless Reach.
10. Transmedia branding: The reinvention of PR through creating unified and coordinated experiences (CAVEAT: the ability to engage audiences and negotiate relationships is still a central skill).
11. Mobile, Wireless, and Cordless take all, as the future is about streaming (rise of Netflix, Spotify, etc.), and consumers want to be free to move from place to place over space and time. Trippy.
Let’s see if I got it right. We’ll circle back in 12 months. 🙂
Any other emerging trends you’re keeping an eye on in 2016? Please do share in the comments below.