Six Measurement Practices PR Pros Can Borrow From Marketers

The following is a guest post from Future Buzz community member Heidi Sullivan.

Way before “PR” or “marketing” came to be, humans were doing something both disciplines hold (or claim to hold) dear: telling stories. So if telling stories is core to what we do, – and it is, as we tell our brands’ or clients’ stories to improve awareness, reputation and, ultimately, the bottom line – why is it that PR pros seem to have such a hard time securing the budget to do just that?

Two words (and I’ll give you a hint, I’ve already used them): the bottom line. OK, fine, that’s three words. But let me say it again: the bottom line.

Marketers have figured out how to track ROI—the click-throughs, hot leads and revenue. PR, on the other hand, sometimes seems more of a cost center than a profit center—PR has a harder time proving ROI, and as a result, budgets tend to be the first to be cut.

So why not borrow some of the techniques marketers are using for PR strategy? Here are six marketing measurement practices that PR can start using in day-to-day measurement:

1. Set pre-campaign goals: Know what you are going to measure before you get started. Are you aiming to improve brand reputation? Measure positive mentions on social sites month-over-month. Trying to drive leads? Use Google Analytics to identify who is signing up for an email newsletter, demo or other online form from earned and owned media articles.

2. Advertising is not a dirty word: PR has never really used advertising, but the growth of content marketing and native advertising focuses on content and telling a brand’s story. Jay Baer of Convince & Convert says, “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.”

When you see a piece of content reach a certain threshold of popularity, use native advertising and other strategies to throw gas on the fire. This way, you’re not creating “viral content,” but identifying the content that is already resonating with an audience and giving it a little extra juice.

3. Apply A/B testing: When Cision started working with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, we noticed that using different headlines for the same article garnered very different results: “Don’t Let an ACL Tear Ruin Your Life” generated 246% more clicks to their Ortho-pinions blog than “Torn ACL? Don’t Let It Get in the Way of Recovery.” Try out different headlines and photos in your pitches to the media, in your social posts and on your blog and discover what works for your audience. And be sure and use campaign tagging to make measurement easy.

4. Examine the Value of Authority: Authority and influence are measurements of the trust and resonance an author has found with a community. With the amount of content we are inundated with today, consumers trust those influencers who have developed that voice. That’s the advantage of Google Authorship – Google distinguishes and validates content from Google authors.

5. Know Your Numbers: There are so many metrics out there it’s hard to know what matters. I’m a social metrics nerd, and even I have trouble keeping up with how quickly they change and evolve. For example, Cision recently launched Digital Reach, a measure of Unique Visitors per Month that utilizes social share to measure visits. The concept of “reach” in media measurement is increasingly intertwined with online sharing activity. Social activity such as tweets and Facebook status updates drive a growing portion of web users to the content they choose to look at every day. We look at a sample of sites and examine the relationship between each site’s UVPM and corresponding social media share counts. From that sample, we develop a statistical model that mathematically expresses the relationship between a site’s UVPM and its social media share counts.

6. Iterate! What works for one brand doesn’t always work for another. What works on one platform isn’t best for the next one. Test things out and don’t be afraid to measure, fail and try again. Pretty soon that process will turn in to measure, succeed, do it again.

What marketing measurement practices have you been able to apply to your PR efforts?

Bonus: see this post from Adam on 3 actionable ways for PR pros to measure better.

Named Influencer of the Year in 2014 by The Hub in association with LinkedIn and one of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She is a host of the popular Cision Social Media Webinar Series and frequently speaks at industry conferences and events on best practices in content marketing social media, communications and the changing media landscape. She joined Cision in 2004. Connect with Heidi on Twitter.

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