PR and corporate communications professionals have a lot of channels—social, newswire, web pages, emails, etc.—to analyze when determining the success of their press releases. For most releases, PR pros are utilizing each channel as part of an overall content distribution strategy. An increasingly relevant trend, turned best practice, is measuring strategic goals by channel.
There are many reasons to consider investing in measurement of your company’s communications—or expanding on it if you already do so. Measuring impact helps you understand what is working in your releases and communication efforts, the earned media you have gained, what gaps exist and what can improve for the future. It can further help reporting to executives on the success of PR, creating a strong case for increased budget.
While understanding the many benefits of reporting, it’s important to discuss the challenges to avoid when planning your measurement efforts. Using too many channels can make your initiatives more time consuming than they need to be. You may have trouble defining what metrics mean success for each medium, or defining which channel will help with goals in engagement, reach or acquisition.
Consider applying these tips to your measurement plans to gather accurate, valuable data and avoid potential challenges.
Set Goals for Each Channel
Measurement starts in the planning process. While planning your release, set specific goals that you would like to achieve in regards to impact. Increasing page views or form fills by a certain percentage for a release are reasonable goals to set that can be measured at the end. You don’t want to blindly pick out some numbers to work after you have distributed your release. Having a starting point with goals can make measurement more successful and valuable.
Continuously Measure Goals
Taking one measurement sometime after your release goes out will not give you the full picture of your engagement and impact with your target audiences. Set your goals and monitor the process along the way. This gives you the opportunity to identify which channels allow for flexibility. You can then tweak things throughout the process if needed, ensuring a more successful end-result.
Choose Metrics that Highlight Success
On a case-by-case basis, evaluate and choose which metrics will most accurately show you have met the goals you have set for each channel. For example, if your call to action is to direct a user from your release to a download page, the most important metric is downloads as opposed to page views. Downloads to release views ratio will help you understand if the release versus the download page would have to be optimized.
Access Analytics through Your Channels
As you use multiple mediums to distribute your release remember there are analytics you can leverage through each of your channels. This can give you in-depth analysis of how each channel is supporting your release distribution.
Social—Beyond likes and followers—your existing audience—look for engagement statistics with your release. Reads and replies give insight into engagement. Shares and retweets are a way to analyze potential new audience. You can also go beyond engagement and work on developing key influencer profiles so you can market to a new audience or at least understand if there is value in marketing to them.
Press Release Reporting— Page views is a starting point to see potentially how many people are directly interacting with your release. You should look further and analyze click through rates of links provided in the release or social shares. Tag every link you have on the release so you can attribute to the traffic source. If you distribute a press release and see a sudden increase in traffic, you don’t have to assume the cause if you tag the links.
Email—Look for metrics that highlight whether your audience is actively engaging with your content. Noting if your open and click-through rates are higher than the industry or internal average is a good starting point, but measuring click-throughs without tagging may not give you the whole story. If there are four links in the email, tagging the links identifies which one was clicked the most, highlighting user behavior.
Website—There are many web analytics tools and most companies use at least the free versions that are available. The more sophisticated the tool, the more specific data you can receive about the visitors on your site. Not only can web analytic platforms give engagement metrics but they can dive further into how people are engaging with your content, what is the common path, etc. Information you gather through web analytics platforms can give you a full profile of all the people that engage with your brand whether your audience is consumers, media or journalists.
Media Pickup— Many communications professionals will also determine the success of a press release based on earned media coverage and any conversations and social amplification that result from journalist pickup. Online media monitoring tools can give you insight into how the target audience consumes the content, a picture of media pickup that highlights clip counts, share of voice, which media types have a higher engagement rate, and overall sentiment or tone of the coverage. There are many options to help you measure earned media pickup, ranging from free to more sophisticated platforms that cover multiple media types (print, broadcast, online, social, etc.) and offer more tools to analyze global media coverage.
Don’t Lose Sight of Connecting Your Goals and Results
If you can’t tie all of the above to the bottom-line (or the top-line), we have lost the purpose of measurement. Assign economic value to each channel based on spend, role, etc. For example, your social channels may not be the best for new customer acquisition, but some existing customers consume your brand-related information from these channels. Understand what value is generated by such customers via each channel.
Don’t Overdo It
There is such a thing as measuring too much, and you most likely can never get perfect attribution in your data collection. This could be harmful when trying to analyze and work with the metrics you collect. Data should be tracked in a way that’s easy to understand so you can easily make sense of it. Start small, and optimize your process based on what you know and learn in hindsight. Try to remind yourself to make things as simple as possible, and only measure tactics that are directly related to your defined goals.
Measuring impact is a crucial part of your content distribution strategy. By applying these tips to your measurement efforts you can help the success of future releases and speak to the benefits PR has on accomplishing impact goals.
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