How to measure a PR campaign
PR is a marketing medium that, traditionally, is often regarded as being hard to measure.
After all, a brand mention in a printed newspaper doesn’t necessarily equal product sales. Businesses that have been featured in national newspapers – even double page spreads – aren’t automatically guaranteed a surge in sales or for the phone to start ringing amid a deluge of calls.
What it does do though is build brand awareness. People might read an interesting article, and bear that brand in mind for the future.
It’s been mentioned previously in our insight blogs (so apologies for doing so again), but our campaign with Home Leisure Direct for its Games Room of the Year competition is a great example of something that builds awareness on several levels.
For example, people might not even be familiar with the concept of a games room in the home. Yet, by showcasing the very best examples via the competition, people are given both inspiration and aspiration. Seeing the results might spark an interest in creating a games room that they never had, giving them something to work towards. Given the nature of a games room and how long they can take to develop, this seed of inspiration could take several months (or even years) to blossom into fruition.
But if someone, having built a shed in the back garden or renovated a room, then needs to furnish a games room there’s an opportunity for them to go to Home Leisure Direct. Previously, that potential customer wasn’t even a potential one – they had no games room, so didn’t even appear on the radar. Now though, having been inspired by the competition, their custom has suddenly become a feasible reality.
But here is why PR is regarded as hard to measure. While this is a plausible scenario, there’s no way you could use this as a measure of a campaign’s success, as it simply can’t be measured. But, just because they haven’t seen an online article, clicked on a link within it and gone ahead and bought a pool table there and then, it doesn’t mean there weren’t sales off the back of the campaign. It’s just that, without asking the person directly, it’s hard to prove.
With that being said, it’s not impossible to measure a campaign’s success. There are ways of doing so, which serve to provide evidence of value. Let’s look at some of these now, but first, let’s look at a discredited method.
Long since discounted, AVE is a pretty ropey method that saw PR practitioners opting to measure a campaign’s success by its Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE). In a bid to put a monetary figure on the value of results, it involved fairly simple metrics, that looked at how much an advert would cost to run in a newspaper or magazine, and then compared it against the size of the PR spread.
To run a double page advert in a national newspaper, for example, would run into the tens of thousands of pounds. However, for the PR equivalent cossts, you’re likely just paying for the agency’s monthly retainer, or perhaps the costs of a one off project – which will come in far cheaper than that of the advertising. There’s also the fact that if one PR story was covered in multiple outlets, then the AVE value would rocket up, putting the PR costs in a very favourable light indeed.
It’s easy to see why this was a popular approach taken by PRs, as it kind of made sense, whilst looking good compared against the costs of an advertising agency. But it didn’t paint an accurate picture and is now generally condemned, with any attempt to reference it as a measure in industry awards resulting in disqualification.
With that being said; what can be used then?
High Value Links
These days the search results are king, and one of the key components of boosting where a website appears in the search results is through something called high value links. The value of a link is determined by a website’s reputation (something referred to as domain authority), and news websites such as the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph and Times have some of the highest domain authorities around. If there’s an online article on these sites talking about your product/service which then links back to your website it works wonders in boosting your online visibility. After all, an authoritative outlet is seemingly legitimising your own, so to Google that is clearly going to look good in the eyes of their algorithms.
It’s very difficult to achieve these links without utilising PR, so it puts agencies like ourselves in a strong position to offer it as part of our service.
Of course, traditional press still has huge influence. In fact, being in print could even be considered a greater endorsement. Given the competition and shrinking editorial teams, any press coverage should be regarded as a coup. However, you could also consider the fact that online coverage potential is practically limitless (in terms of how much can be uploaded rather than journalists’ time), whereas making the cut in a print edition that’s limited by size adds extra weight to your story.
Getting coverage in print or online though is tough (hence why PR is a specialist service) – but it all adds up to building greater awareness of your brand, and it’s a tangible gauge of a campaign’s success.
Even if they don’t immediately purchase something or sign up for a service, an increase in web traffic is a great indicator that more and more people are becoming aware of your brand. Not all PR work will generate immediate traffic, but if you see a spike during a campaign it’s a definite indicator that things are on the up.
Now it should go without saying that conversions do still happen, after all it’s the ultimate aim of any marketing campaign. If conversions are shooting up…then it’s a figurative and literal boom for results. As mentioned, these can be slow to materialise (and sometimes difficult to directly attribute) but a good campaign will, undoubtedly, have an effect.
While social media is a somewhat separate discipline, it’s still interlinked. Good PR campaigns provide the fodder for social media (and often the ideas), providing the opportunity to talk about what’s going on and drum up even more awareness. If the masses are embracing your PR offering on social media platforms, by sharing and engaging, then you know you’re onto a winner.