Doing what’s counted and doing what counts – partners in good PR

The skillsets of a Public Relations professional are many: content writing, journalist relations, social media management and digital SEO strategist, to name just a few! But one aspect of PR that goes slightly more unnoticed despite being just as important as those previously mentioned – is PR data analysis.

Data analysis – does it belong in PR?

As client expectations change and the need to demonstrate ROI in PR grows, we weren’t surprised that recent Cision research found that over 40% of PR and Communications leaders are noting a growing reliance on the numbers crunched in PR data analysis.

But merely having the ability to measure PR output does not guarantee you are producing quality results.

At IBA we often say it’s not just about doing what’s counted, it’s doing what counts. Don’t just count numbers for numbers sake! There’s something called Message Pullthrough that must work in partnership with the monthly tally.

Quantitative data – it’s all in the numbers

We’ve shared before our tips on how PR pros can ensure their success is recognized with the use of meaningful metrics, with both quantitative and qualitative data.

Quantitative data has been a mainstay in the PR industry for many years, providing tangible metrics to precisely demonstrate the reach and scale of PR strategies. Crunching the numbers offers a clear, high-level view of campaign success by offering insights into metrics such as:

  • Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE): An estimate of the cost of earned media coverage secured
  • Events: Registrations and attendance figures
  • UVPM: A publication’s unique visitors per month
  • Impressions: The number of individuals exposed to media coverage
  • Share of Voice: The percentage of media and social mentions, compared to competitors.

More recently we’re also seeing the advent of:

  • Keyword analysis: Landing keywords in placed coverage
  • SEO: Increase in searchability and domain authority from earned placements in authoritative media outlets
  • Backlinks: the number of targeted website referrals coming from media placements
  • Social Media: Follower count, audience growth rate, impressions, and engagements

Quantitative data works extremely well to provide large, objective samples. Numbers and noise out there in a busy competitive landscape is important.

But it’s important to consider its limitations. A quantitative approach will ignore the context and diversity of media content and audience response. There is also ample opportunity for inaccuracy or anomalies in data sampling – newswires and auto-pickups being the prime examples.

Qualitative data – what about the words?

While quantitative data proves ‘what’ you got, qualitative data provides ‘why’ you got it.

Just measuring quantitative data fits straight into the vanity metrics bucket, which we’ve already shared our two cents on.

Qualitative metrics lets the numbers take a back seat and focuses on meaning and messaging – how messages are being received, interpreted and perceived by target audiences. Qualitative data analysis is essential in PR – it provides invaluable insights into audience sentiment and can prove or disprove messaging effectiveness – a staple in campaign evaluations!

Take ambulance chasing. You may have clocked up a lot of coverage chasing a hot topic that in no way aligns with your company brand equity – numbers may be high, but message pullthrough zero!

Qualitative data collection is much more than just numbers. But just because it is difficult, doesn’t mean it is impossible!

How can qualitative data be presented?

A qualitative approach can provide insights into the motivations, emotions, values, and beliefs of media and prospects – which a quantitative approach can’t.A qualitative approach also has some challenges, such as requiring more time, resources, and skills to collect and analyze data but is essential to provide important campaign feedback.

Here’s a quick check list for data gathering from the easiest to the more complex.

  • Case studies: Real examples and ‘wins’ from customers
  • Content and message analysis: Message pullthrough and topics in media coverage, online conversations, testimonials, and third-party reviews
  • International reach: Comparing message pull through across different geographies
  • Focus groups and surveys: Thoughts and ideas shared from a sample group of individuals
  • Sentiment analysis: Tone and sentiment of media coverage and social media conversations
  • Social listening: We’re no strangers to social listening, check out our latest take on it, here.

They need each other to realize their true value

Both quantitative and qualitative data hold their own respective benefits and work best in partnership where they realize their true value.

Incorporating both the numbers and words can offer important, distinct insights for PR professionals. Allowing these to work hand-in-hand will offer comprehensive insights into campaign performance, new industry patterns and trends, inform decision making, and help to demonstrate real ROI.

Don’t fall into the analysis paralysis trap

PR efforts can often fall victim to chasing vanity metrics, or even worse – analysis paralysis. Don’t get caught up in shiny UVPMs, impressions from an audience you’re not interested in, or in events if they don’t resonate with your client and their messaging!

And don’t underestimate the data

Campaign measurement is all in the data, but it’s not just all data. Monitoring, measuring, and interpreting data allows PR teams to inform and refine their strategies and campaigns, adapt messaging, and prove return on investment.

A successful PR campaign is all about doing what is counted, and what counts.

Caitlin Goldsmith is PR Executive at IBA International.

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