Sales Won't Help You Measure PR Success, But This Will An insight into the best tech tools for measuring the effectiveness of PR, and how to keep laser focused on its opportunities and payoffs.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As entrepreneurs and business owners, return on investment (ROI) is dependably taken into consideration when making investments and purchasing decisions — whether a low-ticket offer or a high-ticket, high-touch investment — and most people use a simple equation to calculate it: the cost of the investment divided by the number of products needed to sell, or the number of clients needed to sign to make your money back.
We're also accustomed to using tools that measure the effectiveness of social media — the insights and analytics provided by each platform. We're told how many people our posts have reached and how many have interacted with them, as well as the best time of day for content to be posted. These insights give real-time feedback into how an audience is responding to content, and so direct how to create more of what's performing well and tweak what isn't.
When it comes to public relations, it's much harder to measure its effectiveness and also its ROI. Not impossible, mind you, but certainly not as easy as logging into an account and tracking ready-made insights.
Related: 7 Must-Know Public Relations Strategies for 2022
What role does PR play?
If we think about the role of PR, it exists to raise awareness of you, your brand and your product and/or service. It provides the opportunity to get in front of a massive audience of potential customers and clients, yet there's no way of measuring exactly how many people within that audience will actually see an article, listen to a radio interview or watch your TV appearance. Therefore, it's tricky to gauge how effective PR is at driving those audience members into your business.
As a lifestyle PR consultant for the past 18 years, I've been using audience figures to showcase the potential reach of each PR opportunity when presenting them to clients. This is an industry standard, as it gives an indication of how many people could take in your content. However, there's no way of measuring what percentage of that audience will actually read/listen/watch a media appearance.
This is where PR often falls down against its sales and marketing counterparts. With email marketing, for example, we're able to gauge how successful a campaign is based on an industry average of open rates and click-through rates. In sales, we're used to gauging how successful a launch has been based on the percentage of those taking part in a challenge versus how many people sign up.
As entrepreneurs and business owners, it can be difficult, then, to get on board with PR due to these challenges in measuring ROI. However, I would urge you to redefine your understanding of the role PR plays — to see it as part of a long-term strategy that's not solely focused on an end result and outcome. Among other considerations, don't forget that online coverage often stays there forever, creating a digital footprint that could lead clients to your door years after an initial PR piece is published.
Related: Start Making Data-Driven Decisions With This Google Analytics Master Class Bundle
Google Analytics can help you measure PR's return on investment
If you've gotten to this point in the article and are still wondering why you'd ever invest in PR if it's so hard to measure, I have a simple answer for you: Google Analytics. It may not be the most robust measurement tool for some, but it delivers real-time data on the behavior of those who visit a website and which traffic source they've come from. Google Analytics also allows you to track how many people are visiting your site, which country they're visiting from and how much time they're spending on that site. You can also see which pages they're viewing, which helps you to see the virtual customer journey and provides an opportunity for tweaking the customer experience, if necessary. This simple but vital measurement tool simply isn't being utilized enough by entrepreneurs and business owners, as it can revolutionize how you promote your business externally.
So, let's go back to your published article, radio interview or TV appearance. You're doubtless excited that you're being positioned as an expert in your industry and hope that this is going to boost your authority, credibility and influence. From a PR perspective, that's a massive tick in the box, but what about the measurement perspective? This is where Google Analytics comes into play, because you'll be able to see how much traffic has been generated from those media appearances.
If you see a spike in visitors, the source of the traffic can be more likely identified, so you'll know if your appearance was effective at driving potential customers and clients. You'll then know how and where to prioritize that particular media outlet in future PR strategy. Even in the event that it didn't generate traffic, don't be too quick to dismiss a media outlet; it may be that an audience wants to see more of you before visiting your website, so mix up ideas that you're pitching to the press and see if other concepts resonate with different audiences.
In time, you'll know which journalists are interested in featuring you as an expert and regard you as an asset for their audience, and will be able to track how effective these pieces of coverage are in terms of driving traffic. The next step is to capture the data of those leads so that they enter your sales funnel and are nurtured by you. Then, over time, they become customers or clients. This is where marketing tactics kick in, and where you start to look at targeting website traffic with ads on social media.
Related: 8 Hacks Small Businesses Can Use to Boost Website Traffic and Sales
Public relations exists to raise awareness, but it's also top of the sales funnel activity in terms of driving potential customers and clients. This is why your communications strategy should include a mix of PR, social media and marketing, so that you're continuously driving leads and experiencing consistently increased growth and revenue.