“Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself.” – Guy Kawasaski
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – Public Relations (or PR) is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” This is done via a wide variety of communications tools, from media exposure to strategic social media content and interaction, blogging, e-newsletters, case studies, marketing collateral and much more, depending on the goals of the business. All of these tools are designed with the goal of building better relationships between the business and their customers and prospective customers.
While large corporations are able to house complete, dedicated PR and Marketing Departments internally, small and midsized businesses (SMBs) don’t have that same luxury. So, they often turn to an outside communications agency to help them with this key aspect of their business. These agencies handle everything from managing social media content to advertising spends, print and broadcast media article placements, speaking opportunities, newsletters and e-blasts, etc.
These days, PR and marketing have become a bit of a hybrid practice. Many of the legacy marketing responsibilities have morphed into PR and vice versa.
One of the biggest challenges companies (and PR/marketing agencies) face is figuring out how to measure the real effectiveness of their agency. In the old days, we’d literally measure the number of inches contained in a news story we garnered for a client, multiply that by that newspaper’s advertising rate per inch, and determine an “ad equivalency” value. Today, due to the plethora of digital marketing platforms – and the fact that bottom line revenue is truly the only performance indicator that matters to an SMB with a limited marketing budget – measurement simply isn’t that simple anymore.
…And, while companies can see monthly and quarterly revenue trends and compare those to the prior year to determine if their communications agency is affecting positive revenue growth overall, there are a number of other ways to measure ROI in the near-term – and determine if your PR/marketing spend is paying dividends for your business.
Strategic PR programs have a significant ROI. Building trust, increasing brand loyalty, driving brand awareness to untapped elements of the market – these are less tangible but equally important benefits. From a more tangible perspective, you have the role PR plays in ultimately driving leads. But remember, your PR team can drive all the interest in the world to your brand, but it’s up to you to deliver on your product and service promises and aggressively go after those leads.
Other important things to remember as your measure your agency or communication department’s effectiveness:
- The more press your agency gets your business, the more the spotlight shines on your brand (and as a result, the less it shines on your competitors)
- Is your PR team helping you build a brand that reflects your core values? Are they helping your consumers to understand what differentiates you from your competition and why choosing you makes the most sense
- Do you have the right endorsements? A good PR agency will ensure your brand offering is understood and supported among influencers.
Working closely with your agency or communications department from day one is key to achieving optimal results. To ensure you get the results you want:
1.) Always ask WHY – Why are you investing time and resources into a campaign? What do you hope to get out of it?
2). Set measurement goals up front so everyone understands expectations.
3.) Understand that moving the needle requires a sustained commitment. No one-time silver bullets. Consistent, interesting communications are they key to building trust and relationships with your target audiences. This is what PR agencies are great at.
There are a few other ways – aside from bottom line revenue growth and increased brand profile – to measure impact your marketing efforts are affecting. A few include:
- Using Google Analytics to track referral traffic – you can see what percentage of leads resulted from media placements, social media, blog traffic, etc.
- Use a tool called Snip.ly to include a strong call to action in any links you decide to share on your social media accounts. This platform helps you convert article visitors into leads. Find articles that are relevant, whether they are articles about your company or about your industry, and get more trackable visitors (leads) to your own website.
- Track domain authority. The No. 1 factor in increasing SEO is trusted backlinks to your website. If a high profile site ranks backlinks to yours, it increases your site’s domain authority, making content show higher in search results. (Tip: at the beginning of a campaign go to MozRank to find out your site’s current domain authority score as a benchmark).
And don’t forget, when your PR team gets you positive media placements, you can extend the longevity of their influence by cross-promoting the articles on social media (as well as thanking the reporter and media outlet by social tagging), utilizing printed and/or PDF’d versions as marketing collateral and by proactively pushing them out via e-blasts, which should also contain a call-to-action that can take the reader to more information about the featured product/service.
When done right, a strategic, consistent public relations/marketing effort can reap significant rewards for your business. Good luck!