Improving PR and marketing measurement

Jessie Bland

28 Jan 2021

If I had a pound for every time someone asked me how they could better measure their PR and marketing campaigns, I’d have around £23.

Millionaire mission aside, it is a question that crops up again and again (often, after activity has run). But why?

I would argue there’s general consensus that measurement is a ‘dark art’. That you’re either fully fluent in measurement, metrics and reporting or you’re hiding behind smoke and mirrors hoping someone doesn’t quiz you too deeply.

Throw a proliferation of martech tools into the mix, and you’ve got a shared resistance to the M word.

The reality, of course, is there is no secret sauce. That said, there are a few reasons why it’s become such a taboo topic in-house and among agencies alike.

1. Measurement questions the strategy

Measurement helps us evaluate the plan we’ve put in place to achieve our objectives. Naturally, that means looking at whether what we thought would work actually did. But the reality is that often we’re not very open to it not working.

When it comes to reporting back on activity, we’re worried that the absence of a certain result or a missed KPI means that our activity didn’t work and our strategy was totally wrong.

If it didn’t work, that is a learning itself. What would we do differently next time? Is the entire strategy the problem or is it just the tactics we used this time?

2. It’s easier to rely on vanity metrics versus dig for the metrics that matter

Somewhere down the line we all started subscribing to the mantra, “the bigger the better”. More impressions and more clicks must mean it’s working. But that isn’t always the case.

It’s important we interrogate whether meaningful actions are taken, and dig for context.

For instance, did you know, if someone reads one of your blog posts, finds it the most useful thing they’ve ever read, and then closes the website with the knowledge they’re so much wiser on said topic – Google Analytics registers it as ‘0’.

Put it this way: they could have spent a whopping 8 minutes reading it and nodding along but if they don’t visit another page, Google will register it as a ‘bounce’ – that they spent 0 seconds on the site. The numbers aren’t always what they seem.

3. Metrics get misaligned with channels and tactics

In communications and marketing, we talk a lot about the right content for the top of funnel, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel. What we spend less time talking about is the right metrics against each section of the funnel.

We can’t expect a PR awareness activity to drive sales or a webinar to shift reputation. Equally a blog post about a key topic or challenge makes for a great piece of top-of-funnel activity – if we measure it accordingly.

When it comes to metrics, your main focus should be how many people are coming from organic search (as that’s how most the majority of people will find your blog).

4. Data and reporting is as siloed as your business

Too often, reporting within businesses reflects organisational structure more than the audience experience. PR reports on media coverage over here; the marketing team report on website traffic over there.

But the real measurement ‘magic’ (if you will) is the bit between these two – and the overlap. Do people search for your brand after they read coverage? Do they click-through on a link?

Internal siloes might be getting in the way of showing whether your campaign worked or, importantly, whether it didn’t.

5. There’s inherent short-term bias in comms measurement

Changing your perception in a specific sector or taking prospects from awareness of your brand through to becoming a paying customer, doesn’t happen overnight. And yet, so often, we expect that the immediate results of a campaign should be measured within mere weeks.

Critical to measuring the impact of our activity is shifting the industry’s short-termism – that means checking in with the sales team three, six, even nine, months after a campaign to find out if those MQLs turned into sales leads and those sales leads into bids, pitches or customers.