Bake in PR Measurement First

Liz Sophia (McClellan)
Liz Sophia (McClellan)

How does your organization define success? Is it customer retention? Customer acquisition? Both? While it’s long been argued that PR’s role in growing a business is difficult to define, a clear understanding of organizational goals is the first step to show that PR can directly influence sales decisions, attract new customers and retain existing ones.

There are multiple ways to measure PR success, including website traffic, keyword searches, SEO metrics, call volume and customer retention. One thing is critical: Commit to measuring PR progress from the onset.

The more adept you become at defining the purpose of targeted PR initiatives, the easier it will be to identify the ROI of PR within your brand or organization.

KEEPING SCORE

A scorecard will track progress, but success is based, in part, on how well you communicate the contents of your scorecard. Ensure people know how much progress you are making toward meeting goals. In addition, find an internal advocate to evangelize your work. It could be your CMO, but it’s very powerful to enlist other department heads, such as the VP of sales or finance. Earn their trust by proving how the PR team is helping move the business forward.

DEMONSTRATE INFLUENCE

A few years ago it was standard for PR to send out a package highlighting the week’s press mentions. But citing placements is no longer good enough. PR now must show how it moved the needle. For example: “We had an interview with Jane Doe executive that was published in XYZ publication, with XYZ circulation. We had X number of social shares/likes/posts, and X new followers.”

Subsequently, “Customer X, who was on the fence about renewing, registered for our webinar series and agreed to provide a testimonial.” By developing quantifiable measurements, PR can tie its work directly to sales and marketing.

ALIGN AND CONQUER

Another way PR can move the needle is to assemble a customer advisory board (CAB). While CABs are valuable, they tend to be expendable when budgets are cut. To protect the CAB, PR should align its work with sales, marketing and product development to create a measureable ROI.

Strike an agreement with the CAB to dedicate one hour per year to create a video/written testimonial in exchange for direct product feedback with product teams.

Bottom line: PR has the power to develop strong internal alliances with external groups that prove PR’s intrinsic value to the organization.

BAKE IN MEASUREMENT

As we know, PR has been devilishly hard to measure, yet its unique value is credibility, the ultimate word of mouth. Sadly, if organizations fail to make a direct correlation, PR will not be funded properly. Minus a scorecard and holding people accountable to metrics, this misfortune will continue.

Why do companies resist baking PR measurement into marketing campaigns? Is it a budgetary issue? Or is it a vicious cycle, part of business in which measurement becomes reactionary, as opposed to being part of the process from the start? We can debate this endlessly.

Bottom line: If you fail to bake in measurement from the beginning of a campaign, chances are good the PR budget will decrease.

In addition to being hard to measure, PR typically is not held to revenue goals. When revenue numbers fall short, PR budgets often are the first to be cut because PR is not providing ROI metrics.

What’s needed is a transformational revenue-marketing leader bold enough to fund PR properly. Beyond that dream, though, PR must be proactive, reinvent itself, perhaps begin carrying quotas to show how PR infuenced sales decisions.

MOVE THE NEEDLE

When discussing metrics, show how PR’s activities tie to article downloads, RFPs, contact forms and then tie PR to demand-gen results. This way, PR results aren’t just numbers on a slide. There is a story behind each activity, not just words with numbers associated. Content and articles repurposed should be tagged; show that they influenced sales decisions.

There are multiple ways to measure the success of programs, including website traffic, keyword searches, SEO metrics, call volume and customer retention. Commit to measuring PR progress from the onset.

The more adept you become at defining the purpose of targeted PR initiatives, the easier it will be to identify the ROI of PR within your brand or organization.

As we said above, don’t let measurement be an afterthought. Define what success means to your company and decide what PR programs to implement to support those goals. Collaborate with sales, marketing, finance and IT to become an integral part of the winning team.

CONTACT: Liz Sophia (McClellan) is CMO of North Plains Systems. She can be reached at lmcclellan@northplains.com

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.