In an ever-changing global market, understanding which areas of your marketing strategy are performing well – and which aren’t – is pivotal for long-term success. At the start of June, we threw it back to our top tips for meaningful and clear-cut metrics: coverage breakdowns, topic pull through, geographical splits, and inbound benefits. This week, we delve even deeper. We’re taking a look into the 2022 edition of the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) & Salesforce Meaningful Marketing Measurement study to see what’s changed – and what hasn’t.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, it’s not always the big news outlets and excessive UVPMs that give marketers the most worthwhile metrics or results. The DMA research report seems to agree.

  1. Vanity metrics prove to be a popular ally for marketers – but is the clue to its usefulness in the name?

The DMA research, collected from over 1,000 DMA award entries dating back to 2017, found that the marketing effectiveness of campaigns hit a decline in 2021 of 23% ­— a big blow when compared to the beginning of 2020 and the early stages of the pandemic that saw increased effectiveness levels. Why?

The reason is the same as the results cited in IBA research from 2020 which found that 41% of B2B organizations felt their PR agency placed too much focus on high levels of media engagement rather than content placement metrics. The DMA report concluded that marketers have placed too much emphasis on vanity metrics or “campaign delivery effects”, and this reliance has taken its toll on effectiveness.

Vanity metrics include like counts, followers, comments, shares, impressions for social campaigns or extremely high UVPMs in a Main Stream Media (MSM) outlet for editorial campaigns. While all these contribute to short-term PR and brand image, it provides little framework or suggestions for your next strategy.

Vanity metrics have continually been a controversial topic between C-Suite execs and PR and marketing teams. Put simply, vanity metrics are goals that look good on paper and suggest company growth and success to others – but often, the collected data has little to no correlation to businesses performance in a way that can help with future strategies.

The DMA report concluded that between 2017 and 2020, 41% of the measures identified across the campaigns were vanity metrics – compared with 59% of organizations relating their strategies to meaningful response, brand, and business issues. 

2. Stop chasing the PR and social metrics that have no relevance

The same goes for editorial PR coverage in high UVPM outlets that lack a target audience and provide no real value for that article. Efforts can often fall victim to chasing vanity metrics, as B2B organizations regularly get too caught up in shiny UVPM figures, the number of likes on a social post or national and international media outlets – and we’ve already discussed the debate of vanity PR vs. industry publications.

Campaign measurement is all in the data, but not just any data. The truth is some metrics just aren’t as important as they look and chasing sky-high UVPMs or engagement won’t always get you the results you’re after. What’s on the surface may look large, but organizations just need to know where and what to look for — information such as audience breakdown by industry and geography will be a better measure of success and help inform future decisions.

3. Get the balance right

With such an emphasis on vanity metrics, the DMA report finds that businesses have neglected metrics that relate to sales, brand value or even the long-term health of the business. Marketers will need to shift the focus. Since the pandemic, businesses have turned their attention to short-term strategies – but as the old adage goes, it’s quality over quantity. Likes, followers, UVPMs etc. won’t contribute to new deals, customers, partnerships, or sales – it’s about targeting an audience that really cares about your messaging to achieve business goals that really matter.

Here’s a case in point – how to get the mix right

Take this IBA example for a client in the financial technology market. Despite multiple sales and marketing efforts across horizontal, vertical and MSM (solus piece in USA Today and blog comments in the WSJ) to secure a partnership with the global payments and technology company Mastercard, nothing “paid off”. We and our client turned to seeking targeted editorial coverage in some highly topic specific news outlets, albeit smaller industry publications, but read by payments industry professionals. After securing coverage in the Nilson Report – a very select audience with a readership of just under 20,000, our FinTech’s CEO was contacted by an executive at Mastercard, which later led to a prosperous and sought-after partnership. No cold calling or high-profile national coverage, just relevant content placed in the right source.

The background coverage achieved in the MSM and other publications helped, but the clincher coverage was the Nilson Report.

Prepare for the future: Ditch the metrics that don’t matter

The macroeconomic landscape is changing whether businesses like it or not, and what worked last year, may not work this year or in the one after. It will be vital that business continually revaluate their marketing strategies against this moving backdrop and assess the metrics that really matter. If you’re still unsure on what metrics your business should be tracking in comms campaigns, check out our top tips or get in touch with the IBA team today!

Georgia Harris is PR Executive at IBA International.

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