By Cathy-Anne O’Brien
You’ve partnered with a PR firm, outlined the objectives and you are off to a strong start. Already you are seeing media coverage on your company. Three trade magazines in your target sector want your advice in an 800 word article; The Globe and Mail wants your expertise on a breaking story; you’ve just completed your first live radio interview. It’s exciting, and you are on a high.
And then you wait. The phone doesn’t ring. But it doesn’t matter for the moment; your PR firm has told you it takes time to build brand awareness so you roll with it and the media opportunities continue.
At the six month mark, you are again wondering if the PR efforts are having any impact on your business. After all, you need to see an ROI on your spend.
The PR industry has been notorious for not clearly communicating its value in measurable terms. Equating story placement with ad costs or relying solely on the Media Relations Points system (MRPs) doesn’t tell the full picture. Benchmarking this month’s media coverage against last month’s, seeing a steady uptick in impressions (the number of times a consumer interacts with your content) or knowing that an ad in a magazine where you were profiled would’ve cost 10 times the PR budget, doesn’t demonstrate the impact on your business.
Evaluating the PR program, in partnership with your PR firm, is really the only way to know for certain. The positive effects on your business may not be immediately obvious but there are a few things you can do to assess the impact.
Detailed tracking of your website traffic is imperative. Did you see a lift after a PR campaign? Can you tell what percentage of your traffic clicked through after reading an online article? Capturing this level of detail is important.
What is your team telling you? Whether it’s your customer care staff or other client facing employees, your people closest to the customer are in a position to learn how customers heard about you.
How are sales of certain products and services after being profiled by a blogger? It’s quite surprising how often companies forget to track the obvious and communicate it back to your PR firm. You need to know what’s working and share it with your PR partner.
Once you have these measurements in place, it’s time to look inward. Is PR driving the website traffic but not translating into sales? At that point your website may not be doing it’s job, or this may signify a deeper business issue. Are your messages resonating with customers? Are you pursuing the best target market?
Evaluate how you are promoting your media coverage. You can get more mileage of a brief mention on a short TV segment if you post it on your homepage and share it on social media. Consider including it in new business proposals or mentioning it in your professional bio or during speaking and networking events. How about sharing it in a quarterly newsletter? Promoting your media coverage can add instant credibility.
While there is no magic bullet when it comes to PR, it is considered one of the most effective ways to build a brand, shape an image, strengthen relationships (with customers, employees, investors, the community, media and other influencers), all while boosting your niche authority or leadership position. Give it a try and ensure you make the most of it.