As we kick off a new year, many marketing managers and comms departments will be measuring the success of their 2021 campaigns – including PR. But as IBA has found through its own primary research, gauging these metrics can be a difficult task if campaigns lack visibility and transparency. When it comes to reporting, the IBA study found that a staggering 41% of B2B marketers said their PR agency still works with the same old network of familiar media outlets and secondly, places too much emphasis on high levels of what agencies mysteriously call ‘media engagements’.

Here at IBA, we believe in the power of content placement – a metric that is accurate, tangible and quantifiable – and what’s more, is a winner with marketing managers who know their message is hitting target audiences successfully and on budget. So, if you missed it last year, here are our three top tips for measuring impactful PR in 2022.

Don’t be blinded by time sheets
Measuring success from PR campaigns is not sorcery. Metrics from PR campaigns can be gauged on various levels, from coverage breakdowns, messaging pull through, SEO benefit and website hits. 

As I said, the nearest some PR agencies came to metrics is by adding up something called ‘media engagements’ – something some agencies even charge for! Our research found that 41% of marketing managers feel that their public relations agency put too much focus on high levels of media engagement (defined as simply a conversation or email with a journalist) over content placement metrics. And over a third found that placements appeared in the same old ‘friendly’ media. This meant that as many as 88% of marketing managers suspect a large amount of the public relations spend is wasted. If you’re experiencing this then stop reading this blog now and get in touch with the IBA team! Seriously! Now read on!

  1. Coverage breakdown – data collection and analysis key

These reports on media engagements and time sheets are no alternative to placements in target media. Quarterly or half-yearly reporting should give agencies and their marketing managers a large enough sample size to gauge campaign performance, velocity and momentum – in terms of which content formats have performed well, and where. But you’re only as good as the data you collect. This process begins with precisely planned data entry, with all coverage logged and coded appropriately – how was it displayed by the publishing media outlet? Was it used on an online platform, digital issue/hardcopy or newsletter?

Look at the pattern of activity
When you’ve got the numbers, your data analysis will enable trends to be spotted. For example, for a campaign featuring a split of articles, press releases and interview outreach – did the coverage formats match the levels of activity?

A high volume of news coverage vs. bylined placements may indicate a B2B organization hasn’t reached ‘thought leadership’ status within their target industries. Look for a good 70:30 ratio – 70% thought leadership, 30% news. Or, on the flipside, a lack of news coverage may show your press release strategy needs a rethink. If using newswires, this data-led approach can also let you separate your syndication from quality coverage which has been picked up, read and posted by a physical journalist. You can now evaluate how much you spend on newswires, maybe reduce this service and focus on pitching.

There’s more to numbers than the numbers

But the spread of publications a PR campaign reaches is just as important. For those who use UVPM to demonstrate campaign reach, analysis of total coverage will indicate campaign impressions. But take note of the stat from earlier – 34% of marketing managers feel their public relations agency is ineffectual as they place content in the same small selection of media.

But beware of chasing astronomical UVPM figures to the detriment of campaign targeting! You’re chasing potential buyers of your solution, not a vast consumer audience.

  1. Topic pull through and geographic split – how effective are my comms messages?

By drilling deeper, marketing managers can learn even more about how their campaigns and messaging are resonating outside their own four walls. We have just looked at analysis by format and asset origination, but all coverage should also be coded by message and, for international campaigns, geography. After 6-12 months their PR coverage can give B2B marketing departments an accurate reflection of which are performing well and, crucially, where.

Do I need to attach my message to a different hot topic? Or tweak my deliverables?
These metrics should inform strategy going forward, to make sure the topics of most interest to the media are married to the company marketing messages of the B2B organization. Those messages may need to be prioritized, updated or revisited accordingly.

Coverage reporting may show certain topics are more developed in particular geographies, or even industries, and marketing strategies can be easily tailored going forward to ensure the most relevant messages are delivered to the most receptive audiences.

  1. Inbound benefit – SEO, website click through, lead generation

Outside of the marketing department, business leaders themselves will want to know the value they are deriving from their PR investment. If they cannot see the benefits from a brand awareness or company messaging perspective, then PR’s inbound benefits might help. As media outlets move increasingly online, this opens the door for B2B organizations to boost their digital lead generation.

Firstly, media outlets have websites with incredibly high-ranking domains, both in terms of their UVPM and search result prominence. A targeted PR campaign generating high coverage volumes in influential media outlets will ensure a B2B organization, their messages and keywords are featured prominently in authoritative third-party domains. In short, potential customers searching for specific software or industry issues are more likely to find a B2B organization with a regular and active media strategy.

Secondly, on an even more direct level, by drafting the content they submit to influential media outlets, B2B marketers have considerable control over the backlinks they include. Press releases can contain links to relevant product pages, bylined content can include links back to specific areas of the company website – research, white papers, blogs and more. Click through can be tracked through marketing platforms such as Hubspot or Marketo, or simply through UTM-codes and Google Analytics.

Impactful press relations makes a difference
Insightful PR metrics begins with good performance. Without the right volume of data, it becomes a very difficult task to demonstrate the benefits to a B2B organization – or even more importantly, to your C-suite. Once a stream of coverage has been established, then the opportunities open for PR to show how far it has come in terms of direct impact on sales and marketing.

Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.

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