Delivering PR Value Through Data Analytics

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By: Andrea List, Senior Supervisor

“If you don’t demonstrate value to your organization, it doesn’t matter what you do.”

That was one of many powerful takeaways from the recent PRSA 2017 International Conference in Boston. But demonstrating business value can often feel like an elusive concept for a discipline often designed to directly impact reputation more so than sales. And yet, there has never been a better time to be a PR practitioner, as we now have unprecedented access to social media and digital data that offer insight into account planning, campaign optimization and measurement and reporting.

I had the pleasure of speaking at this year’s conference to share how I use data analytics on a daily basis to improve my clients’ PR results, and ultimately, demonstrate value. Below are a few ways to integrate analytics throughout a campaign lifecycle:

  • Account Planning: Social media data contain valuable consumer intelligence that can, and should, inform your communications strategy. Analyzing how and when consumers talk about your brand on social media gives insight into cultural trends you can tap into, unknown audiences you never considered, the impact of traditional media coverage on consumer sentiment and potential crises bubbling under the surface. Using this information, you can tailor your strategic approach to address consumer nuances with a spectrum of targeted messages.
  • Campaign Optimization: Regularly tracking campaign analytics will indicate early on whether you’ll meet KPIs – and, more importantly, give you the opportunity to course-correct if you’re falling short. By keeping your strategy flexible enough to shift if needed, you can analyze paid, earned and owned data, such as post engagement rate, web traffic or audience growth, to ensure your work is on track to meet or exceed its goals. If it’s not, feel empowered to make a change – shift content to new channels, reallocate budget or resources, leverage different influencers, etc. – that will get you successfully to the finish line. It’s much easier to convince a client to adjust execution to meet their goals than to explain at the end of your work why you fell short.
  • Measurement and Reporting: Relying solely on media metrics fails to truly demonstrate how your target audience reacted to a campaign. Soft measures like placements and impressions are pretty standard in the PR industry, but incorporating social media and digital returns help showcase real value by going beyond summarizing what we do as practitioners to include how the consumer responded and the business was impacted. To show this level of value, include information on how your media placements were shared across social media, or whether any inbound website links came from PR-secured sources. Track your owned channel audience size both pre- and post-campaign to show change in followers. If you have a campaign-specific microsite, compare unique visits and time on page to other pages on your website to show how it stacked up. All of these measures add up to a more complete picture of PR effectiveness.

There are myriad ways to integrate analytics into PR strategy. And if you’re new to analytics, you don’t need to worry about exhaustively implementing a data strategy. Just dip your toe in the water and find small ways that work for you. You’ll find that doing so will enhance the quality of your work and help give clarity to the value of PR for your clients.