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Behind the Publicity Curtain: How to know if PR really works­

June 30, 2020
by Karen Janette

The benefits of PR have historically been viewed as tougher to track than other marketing initiatives. But looking deeper, you’ll realize that public relations is so much more than simply creating attention for your brand. It’s actually enhancing and strengthening the other parts of your marketing efforts – both digitally and traditionally. 

The proper approach to PR is a true integration of media visibility and interactive digital exposure. Bridging the gap between traditional media and digital exposure is possible if you know how to track the way PR relates to your bottom line.

Most PR strategies involve elements like driving brand awareness, building trust in a brand name, highlighting brand culture, and fostering positive opinion around brand initiatives. But how do you effectively track initiatives like these and measure ROI? We’re pulling back the curtain to show you how it’s possible, why it matters, and how you can measure the impact.

Media and Press Mentions

Most of the behind-the-scenes work with earning media and press mentions is in the “building relationships” phase, which can be tracked as outreach efforts (calls, emails, responses, etc.). However, there are certain metrics that can give you better insight and a sense of what is working with campaign pitching. Hint: The magic is in the quality.

  • Compare media coverage from campaign to campaign to determine the success
    • Was it in a media channel or publication that reaches your target audience?
    • Was it published in a high-reach channel or publication?
  • Compare type of exposure and reach of the published mentions to assign it value, or rate it on a quality scale and compare it each month (1, 2, 3, or A, B, C)
  • Determine whether the mention is evergreen. Does it give you content that you can repurpose and use on your website or in social channels?
  • If it was an interactive mention (video, webinar, podcast), did it receive a high volume of click-throughs, views and comments?

Content Exposure

Thought leadership content is part of the PR mix, which means creating valuable content and getting that content published to help position your company or brand as an industry leader.

Tactics for increased content exposure:

  • Develop original/byline content with thought leaders in your business that can be published and tracked
  • Use video content – video is easily measured by views and engagement
  • Measure content through social channels and align your social strategy content with PR promotion to enhance exposure
  • Write articles about industry topics most interesting to target clients, focusing on keyword popularity
  • Look for  online Q&A platforms, podcasts, or webinars for top executives to be featured
  • Create your own series: Interview key community members, celebrities, or other public figures as part of an interesting platform to discuss hot industry topics and use it in communications and campaigns
  • Note whether the mention is organic or paid. Did the story have enough exposure to stand on its own in the eyes of the editors and journalists, or did you have to sponsor content and pay for the exposure? (Sponsored content is a very quick way to get exposure when you want it, and if the reach is big enough, the investment may be well worth it.)

Website Traffic and Inbound Links

Content that is clickable can be easily tracked, so UTM tracking links should be added to all content whenever possible, which allows you to track  inbound traffic to your company website from the originating site.

  • Track inbound links and traffic that comes from media sources and all published press releases
  • Focus on clickable mentions and inbound links from publications and online resources that make sense for your industry and target audience
  • Look for websites with domain authority, which helps with SEO (To better understand domain authority, visit Moz )

Social Media Engagement

Social media, when done right, is a very powerful way to maximize exposure. Not only does it go hand in hand with PR, but because of the metrics available through social media platforms, it’s an easy way to track and measure the success of a campaign.

According to Muck Rack’s Annual Journalist Survey, 64% of journalists worldwide said they track how many times their stories are shared on social media. To figure out if your social exposure is impacting your overall public relations campaign, ask yourself the following:

  • Is your PR being shared by other social media accounts, partners, vendors, or industry affiliates?
  • How many engagements (likes, comments, shares) are you receiving on the content shared? 
  • Are there any industry influencers who are engaging or interacting with your PR content?

Virtual Events

Let’s face it, virtual events are now a part of our reality. If you are going to stay connected within your industry, you have to adapt and move toward the platforms that continue to evolve and grow, which is actually a great thing for your business in so many ways. 

Virtual events allow you to connect with an audience in a personal way, and they create an avenue of connections directly with your website. Content can also be hosted or streamed on your website to increase traffic, which can help you stand out amongst your competitors. Imagine hosting a video of the largest industry event on your website, which gives you trackable content and a way to position yourself as a thought leader in the eyes of your target audience. (Hint: The event host usually won’t mind the additional exposure and will welcome the opportunity.)

A few ways to engage in virtual events:

  • Participate in online podcasts and webinars to foster connection within the industry and your community
  • Sponsor industry virtual events
  • Create a live event of your own to promote and share (podcast, webinar series)
  • Co-host an educational event within your industry

Each of these virtual event opportunities are trackable through views, comments, shares, website traffic, and online impressions. It’s one part branding and one part public relations.

The Take-Away

Without a plan to measure your PR efforts, all of your hard work might as well be released into a vacuum. So if you choose to integrate media and press mentions, social media, or virtual events into your campaigns, measure, measure, measure. Look at each element as a part of the bigger strategy. The key is to qualify and quantify the metrics that matter to your business, compare the results over time, and refine/optimize your efforts based on these key learnings. You will be amazed with the process, and most importantly, your business will benefit like never before.   

Connect with us to find out how FUEL can help you achieve your PR and visibility goals.

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