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Why Measuring PR is No Longer Enough—The Difference Between Traditional PR “Measurement” and Today’s PR Analytics

Colorful measuring tapes pileBy Christine Perkett, CEO & Founder, SeeDepth, Inc.

As the PR industry ushers in a New Year, many marketing executives are taking a look at their toolsets, PR vendor partners and plans to determine what needs to change or improve in 2016.  Analysis of such means going beyond traditional PR “measurement” and taking a deeper look into what worked and what didn’t in the past year. Only when you take the time to analyze impact can you truly begin to position PR as a profit center vs. a cost center. For agencies and corporate communications teams, good data analysis can allow them to further capitalize on powerful insights, even making the difference for bigger budgets and contract renewals.

In the not so distant past, measurement often consisted of monthly status reports and quarterly or bi annual reviews of activity. These reports would list outputs such as the number of media outlets a PR team pitched, the number of articles in which a client or brand was included, or the number of awards and speaking opportunities a team submitted for or placed. Today, it’s no longer enough to report at such intervals – activity must be analyzed as it happens – nor is a review of outputs valuable without correlation of outcomes, including success and failures.

Analyzing campaigns with depth and honesty allows PR teams to build stronger and more accurate PR strategies for the long term, versus relying on “experience hunches” for short-term campaign direction. When we can look at what happened with a holistic view and begin to correlate activities, inputs and strategies to outcomes, we can repeat what works and pivot from what doesn’t.

For example, it was once enough to simply “measure” (count) the number of media articles a client was included in during a certain time frame. Additional measurement values might include circulation of the publication or column inches (or the dreaded AVE). Or, PR teams would count how many events were held, new followers were gained or speaking opportunities and awards were secured, with no further analysis of what happened after they took place. Today, there are many tools that can help PR executives to dig deeper and analyze how inclusion in such articles or events impacted the business, and to identify what patterns are happening across the most impactful PR activities. For example:

  • What is the social impact of a certain publication or journalist? Do certain journalists get retweeted and followed by a larger percentage of our desired audience than another? How does that correlate to the reach of our coverage when this journalist writes about our client or us?
  • What percentage of our coverage gets amplified across social networks, and which social networks play a greater role in driving interest in our brand?
  • Beyond counting the number of times our key messages are included in coverage, is there a pattern to show that certain key messages drive more referrals or leads?
  • When we win an award, is there an increase in website visits (and where on the site) and incoming leads, and if so, which awards drive the highest percentage of such? What is the cost to return ratio of each award?
  • Is there a company spokesperson who, when featured in an article or a speaking opportunity, drives more interest from an audience than another?
  • When considering the total cost of a speaking opportunity or conference presence vs. the return, are we looking at the entire picture? Not just the hours the PR team contributed to write the speaking submission or creating marketing materials and a booth, but also the hours dedicated to the presentation creation, travel costs, out of office impact and more. Adding the full cost and subtracting the return (leads/awareness) will give us a better view into whether or not these PR programs are cost centers or profit centers.
  • In analyzing influencer outreach, what are the times of day or days of the week that tend to elicit a greater response?

There are many patterns that today’s PR tech tools can help capture. Teams must take the time to analyze such information and correlate the data. When we do so, we can look beyond the obvious and truly identify strategies that have greater impact and ROI. This includes key messages, the importance of spokespersons, influencer strategies, social media campaigns and more. Further, identifying which PR activities are significantly impacting the bottom line vs. simply raising awareness can support budget and resource decisions.

PR teams who analyze activity can bring greater value to their client or internal team, proving impact and justifying budget resources. A PR agency who can show me how they build strategies based on historical data patterns is going to be much more convincing than one that still relies on guesstimates. Today, PR is data-driven. Upgrade your measurement activities to include both outputs and outcomes for considerably greater impact in 2016.

Christine Perkett is the CEO & Founder of SeeDepth, Inc., a PR analytics platform for brands and agencies. She founded SeeDepth after nearly 20 years as a PR professional, including as Founder & President of PerkettPR, an award-winning high tech PR agency she founded in 1998. Christine has won numerous PR and business awards and is often listed a top business & marketing expert to follow by entities including Hubspot, Forbes, Cision, Richtopia, Traackr and more. Follow her on Twitter @missusP.

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