Moving Beyond Press Release Pick Up to Reporting on Real Outcomes

There are two things that are certain in life when you work for a PR agency. Number one, you’re busy. Racing towards the next deadline is a daily reality. Number two, you will be asked to consistently prove your value to clients.

The demand for increasingly sophisticated metrics is an opportunity for boutique agencies to differentiate themselves by providing clients with measurable, meaningful and actionable results that they are not getting from the competition.

This guide will share the most common and effective press release metrics, as well as tips on bringing together data from multiple sources to paint a more complete picture, ultimately tying agency activities to business outcomes for clients.

Setting goals

Before you can deliver meaningful results to your clients, you have to know how they measure success. Reach, media pick-up, and engagement are among the most common press release goals.

Some clients will have clear expectations on the results that represent success for them. Others, however, may look to your agency to define specific goals such as number of media outlets to offer editorial coverage, or volume of social shares. Requesting access to past press release results will help to set a benchmark that your agency can use to exceed expectations.

COMMON PRESS RELEASE GOALS

  • Reach. Reporting on reach shows clients how far the net was cast when it comes to their news or content and can be measured by number of views via content syndication networks, news media, search engines, and social networks.

  • Awareness & Engagement. Reporting on engagement gives an indication how the news or content resonated with the audience that it reached.

  • Demand Generation. Some of your clients will be responsible for driving demand for their organization’s products and services. Connecting the dots from engagement, downloads, and website traffic to sales-ready prospects will allow your agency to contribute to lead generation efforts.

  • Media Pick-up. Most agencies rely on media pick-up to define the success or failure of a press release. To ensure you’re reporting on the most accurate results, an online monitoring tool will help you uncover a full view of press release pick-up and perhaps more importantly, editorial coverage.

Reporting on Results

Reach and engagement can come in several forms so it’s important to encompass engagement actions across all channels so you’re not under-reporting on the results.

Traditional reach metrics report on the number of places where a press release has been syndicated, as well as the number of visitors or views.

Reporting on spider hits also give you a good idea of the level of availability your release has in search engine results—this number reveals how many times search engine spiders have found and indexed your news, an indicator of visibility.

A good way to better understand reader engagement is to consider three of Forrester Research’s 4 i’s of Engagement (interaction,intimacy and influence)1 with respect to your press release. Finding the answers to the following questions is a great place to start:

  • Were your customers interacting with the release by printing a copy of it?

  • Did they express a certain level of intimacy with it by sharing it with others using social bookmarks like Facebook, My Yahoo or Digg?

  • Did they attempt to influence others by emailing it or grabbing the permalink to your release?

  • Did they share the release using social channels? If so, how many people make up their social network?

You’ll want to be able to share with your client which actions readers took, help them to understand what those actions imply about their readers, and illustrate how that level of engagement compares with other releases sent to the same industries so that you can determine success in this vital area.

Setting Your Clients Up for Success

One of the most effective ways to measure reach starts before distribution. Including a hyperlink in your press release allows you to report on the sites that refer traffic to that page.

If you have access to your client’s web analytics account, e.g, Google Analytics or Omniture, consider adding parameters to the URL. Visits, engagement and conversions initiated using that parameter can be traced back and attributed to your agency. If you don’t have access to the analytics account, a great alternative is to create a custom short URL (using a free tool like Bit.ly) to embed in the press release. This tactic may also help you to save time because it doesn’t require client involvement.

With either option, you will be able to track visits from anywhere on the web, which offers a comprehensive view and works in your favor because you can measure beyond the sites within your distribution service’s syndication network.

Pairing the parameter or custom link information with the engagement metrics provided from your distribution service is the beginning of a compelling story about the extent of awareness and engagement generated by the agency.

The next chapter in that story is the addition of insight into the quality of engagement using SEO tools, such as LinkCheckers, Majestic SEO and MOZ, to name a few. Leveraging a tool that assigns authority metrics to sites that link to your clients’ news will allow you to report on the relevance of outlets taking an interest in the press release.

Setting your agency up for success

Agencies make themselves invaluable by offering something above and beyond what their competitors can offer. Awareness metrics are appealing because the numbers are often impressive but to set your agency apart it’s important to get more granular and share which of these sites serve your clients’ target audiences.

Pairing the distribution report provided by your newswire of choice with media monitoring tools can help you locate pick-up outside of the newswire’s syndication network and shed light on readers’ demographic information. With that information, you can show your client not only that you reached an audience, but that you reached the audience that is most relevant to their cause.

Putting Results into Context

Beyond showing online results, it’s important to put these results into context and arm your clients with usable business intelligence. One method is to compare the results of your clients’ release against other releases sent to the same industry, allowing you to quickly see how your results compared to peer releases. Or perhaps your clients would prefer to see how their release fared compared to their own average. In either case, an online monitoring tool can be used to gather and compare data, or perhaps more easily, look for a distribution service that provides this information in their standard reporting. Using this, your agency can demonstrate value over time using definite metrics.

Comparing media results against other releases sent to the same industries is another way to add value. Providing insight into the activity timeline (did the activity happen all at once or was it spread out over several days?) reveals how long the press release remained a topic of interest. Digging even deeper into the results, clients would benefit from knowing which outlets the journalists viewing your news actually work for, and which industries they typically cover.

Consider employing a press release service that reports on the keywords that brought the most readers to a press release, as well as which keywords were the most successful at driving additional traffic to landing page. You can use this information to evaluate which terms have been used the most over time to reach your news and your landing pages. This gives you valuable insight into which terms your clients’ audiences use most, enabling you to counsel clients on how to write more compelling releases in the future.

Tying Communications to Business Outcomes

Thus far, this paper has focused on reporting at the press release level, which is valuable and necessary but still doesn’t fully differentiate your agency from the competition. What many of your contemporaries fail to deliver is contribution to business outcomes. More accurately, they fail to successfully link their efforts to the outcomes that are most important to clients.

Lead Generation

The benefits of parameters and unique URLs apply not only at the single press release level, but can also be used to tie agency efforts to broader demand generation goals. Ensure that the links in each press release lead back to pages where readers can convert from anonymous ‘engagers’ to known leads, typically by filling out a form or signing in using their social credentials.

Work with your clients to label these leads in a way that is meaningful to them (for example, lead source equals agency) and offers visibility into agency contribution.

Revenue

Revenue contribution is considered the holy grail of public relations metrics. It is perhaps easiest to measure when PR tactics are working in isolation but this is almost never the case. Often a press release is paired with any number of other channels, making it seemingly impossible to measure the impact of press releases alone.

However, once impact on lead generation has been established, it’s not such a huge leap to measure revenue contribution. Maintain a list of the leads sourced by your agency and work closely with your clients to compare it to the opportunities created and revenue generated by the campaign as a whole. You clients may already have the ability to link leads to revenue in their CRM.

Conclusion

Monitoring and measuring the results of a PR campaign can be a daunting task, but incorporating the press release reporting results discussed here will enable you to benchmark results, share with your clients which messages had the most traction and demonstrate the return on their investment in your agency.

When you present clients with measurable, meaningful and actionable results, you help your agency to transition from vendor to trusted advisor. The ever-increasing need for insight and counsel is an opportunity to cement a relationship with your clients by linking communications activities to business outcomes.

If you have questions about the reporting options available to your agency, a PR Newswire representative specializing in agencies would be happy to offer consultation.

When you present clients with measurable, meaningful and actionable results, you help your agency to transition from vendor to trusted advisor.

Views and engagement by organization is an underutilized metric that offers insight into the customers, prospects, investors, partners, competitors or media outlets taking an interest in your clients’ news. Knowledge of the companies interested in their news, allows clients to identify new opportunities or allocate time and budgets more effectively. As an agency, it allows you to provide additional context regarding audience reach and segmentation.

The ever-increasing need for insight and counsel is an opportunity to cement a relationship with your clients by linking communications activities to business outcomes.

Consider employing a press release service that reports on the keywords that brought the most readers to a press release, as well as which keywords were the most successful at driving additional traffic to landing page.

ABOUT PR NEWSWIRE

For more than 60 years, PR Newswire has helped PR, corporate and marketing communications, and investor relations professionals achieve their communications goals – from building awareness with new audiences and gaining media pickup, to managing reputation and inspiring investor confidence – by sharing, targeting, tracking and enhancing their messages to make the most of their communications campaigns and content investments.

RESOURCES

1. Forrester Research: “Measuring Engagement–Four Steps To Making Engagement Measurement A Reality