As technology progressively blurs the line between marketing and public relations, businesses expect their PR dollars to measurably spark growth and generate revenue. On the other hand, prospective clients constantly tell me that other PR agencies avoid the words “sales,” “revenue” and “return on investment” while delivering their value propositions.
As one of the few practitioners who embraces those terms, I have two explanations as to why many traditional agencies do not: 1.) they don’t know how to adequately quantify their impact, or 2.) they simply aren’t delivering bottom line results. Here’s a closer look at what’s going on…
Antiquated Measurement Systems
Aging agencies tend to rely on advertising value equivalency (AVE) to attach a dollar value to their PR efforts. In my opinion, AVE is a deceptive measurement tool used to boast inflated estimates of what editorial coverage would cost if it were advertising space or time. At best, these numbers are trivial and disingenuous. At worst, they’re outright fraudulent.
Advertising and public relations are distinct practices, as any sincere practitioner will concede, so any useful comparison is hard, if not impossible. A few quotes or mentions in an article, for example, are not the same as an ad, as editorial coverage can be negative or neutral. On the other side, a positive placement brings a level of credibility and impact that a paid advertisement cannot possibly match. What’s worse is that agency practitioners who use this practice often control the data and formulate their own figures. If AVE is presented as the best measurement of a campaign’s success, it should be a big red flag, if not a deal-breaker.
Social Activity, Website Traffic and Conversation Rates
PR Newswire’s report Why Metrics are the Key to Getting a Seat at the Revenue Table explores how PR professionals can use key metrics to prove its role in generating revenue and ultimately impacting the company’s business goals through social activity, website traffic and conversion rates. Social activity, in other words communication on social media, is more than just a platform for conversation. It is an effective approach for driving referrals back to a company’s website, while also increasing engagement on social platforms.
As social activity drives people to a company’s website and increases traffic, measurement tools and analytics can track this information by page views and unique visitors, as well as the amount of time people spend on specific pages. Companies can access this information through Google Analytics – a crucial tool to track high-quality leads and to determine which channels are most effective at driving website traffic. It is also important to track conversion rates, the rates at which prospects and customers convert as a result of a company’s PR efforts. A conversion can be anything from filling out a form to making an online purchase or downloading an application.
Producing and Measuring Results
Tangible results through social activity, website traffic, conversion rates and most importantly actual sales are often the true indictors of PR success. As a PR professional, it is necessary to communicate with the client at the onset of the relationship to clearly define the agency’s role. Make it clear that the PR agency is not the sales team; the client still needs to implement integrated sales and marketing strategies that compliment the agency’s PR efforts.
A company can measure its public relations efforts through Google Analytics, social media monitoring tools, marketing automation tools, customer relationship management tools, web analytics tools and most importantly sales correlations and anecdotes. Measuring PR success can also be as simple as talking to the client and asking the right questions. How many new business leads are you getting? How did your business leads hear about the company? A simple way to answer this question is to create an automatic form on the website to ask people how they heard about the company.
Public relations, when done right, should undoubtedly play a role in generating growth and revenue. PR professionals, teams and agencies that fail to demonstrate a tangible impact in those terms don’t stand a chance in the New Media Age. I say good riddance.
Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, LLC, a national public relations agency supporting the communications needs of registered investment advisors (RIAs) and other forward-thinking financial services firms. To learn more about Flackable, please visit www.flackable.com.