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Calculating the success of a PR Media campaign

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

When embarking on any PR campaign, one of the first things you'll want to know is, how will I know if this will work or be successful? And calculating the success of a PR Media campaign can be a tricky task.

There are multiple ways in which you can look at this but each has different end results and ultimately how you view success really all depends on what you wanted to achieve from your campaign from the outset.

Did you want to simply see your name in the media? Drive bookings? Raise brand awareness to help when pursuing business funding?

Whenever you start or engage a PR media campaign ask;

  • What are the overall goals?

  • How will PR media activity help?

  • What value can we attribute to success of the business?

  • And, what factors contribute to measuring success?

In this article, we’re going to delve into how you can calculate your success and why you need to think outside of what you think is best for your business and what in reality will make your business soar.

1. Media types

We tend to classify media into three tiers, one being the best quality and fit for your brand, down to three, which while still raising awareness, is likely to do little for your sales and overall ‘standing’.

A successful campaign is one which mostly hits tier one media, titles which are important to your brand and read by those who are likely to purchase your product or service. For some this might be a huge national newspaper such as the Daily Telegraph or MailOnline, for others this can be a trade magazine like TTG or Travel Weekly and it might also be influential online titles such as Phocuswire or family TV magazine shows like The One Show.

It really all depends on the individual product or service being promoted and who is the end user or key influence in purchase. Look closely at your product or service from the outset, to set your targets and ultimately everything else will fall into place. When you know your end audience, you’ll better understand your target media and in turn reap the benefits of a well targeted media campaign.

Circulations are also a consideration when looking at types of media coverage. Big is great but bigger is not always better. Sometimes, especially if your product or service is quite niche, small but carefully targeted titles can reap the best rewards. A trade publication for example, might have fewer than 10,000 readers but if those readers are your prime target audience then coverage within that title can prove more successful than hitting a national newspaper with over a million readers. Don’t forget that while a national newspaper might have an enormous readership not every reader will read every section, do you?

2. Links

When it comes to online and digital coverage, links are all important. Not only do they help with your Google (and other search engine) rankings, links are the easiest way for readers to reach your website and learn more about what you offer. Links are also important for improving your DA (Domain Authority). The higher your DA, the higher you’ll appear in search engines. Also, try to secure links to your homepage but also to other relevant areas of your website. For example, if you sell ski holidays and the article is talking about skiing in France - try to secure links to the French ski break section of your website - essentially encourage ultra targeted links.

The best way to encourage media to use your links is to include them in all media materials you issue, set up trackable links so you can monitor their performance. An article without a link, while still valid, does not have the same value as one with one or multiple links, and even better when a media outlet also plugs their article about you via their social media, you’re winning in all areas. Just make sure to like, re-post and engage in these circumstances.

NOTE: When providing links, make sure it is a relevant landing page that is not overly promotional, perhaps use blogs, case studies or access to download a report (helping your lead generators). This way you can track engagement from visitors.

3. Keywords/messages

Before even embarking on a PR media campaign, keywords and messaging should have been carefully considered and planned. You should have set words and phrases that are used across all your platforms from your website and social media to your press releases, newsletters, direct mailings and internal communications. Ensure all staff that communicate to the outside world, are familiar with the words and messages and use them.

When the same words are utilised by media in print and online articles it reinforces your brand and its core messaging. This all again comes back to search engine rankings and DA. The internet uses algorithms to pick up on regularly used words and phrases - ‘trends’. This is how your business can itself become a trend. There is nothing better for a brand than seeing your key messaging repeated by third parties. It’s an endorsement that is quite literally priceless and a great measure of a successful campaign.

4. Tone of article

Before getting too excited about any article, check the tone. Is it positive, negative or neutral? The ‘Greatest Showman’ PT Barnum once famously said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. However, sadly this doesn’t really hold true. You only have to look back to beleaguered jewellers, Ratners, to know that bad publicity can be the downfall of a business. So monitor success by the tone of your media coverage.

One negative article can take years to recover from. Positive and even neutral coverage is the sign of a successful campaign. If you are the recipient of negative publicity, come and talk to us about how we can help you turn this around.

5. Location/Size of article

Similar to tone, size and location is equally important. A tiny snippet can be missed, as can one in the wrong section of a print title or online magazine. We’re not saying these pieces still don’t hold value, as they do. They are just not what you might consider to be wildly successful.

Of course, it’s generally not your decision as to where your story might be published within a particular newspaper or digital title, but successful campaigns hit the early pages, with bigger headlines.

6. Google Analytics and similar tools

Google Analytics is a free tool which tracks and monitors website traffic. It goes into pretty good detail on the visits to a website, where they have come from, gender, age, how they reached your site. It’s a great tool for monitoring successes, especially immediately after and media coverage as you can spot upticks in site visits, which can be a telltale sign of the reach of a piece of coverage. There are other tools which you cun use to similar effect but these can be costly.

Monitor your tracked links, and referral sources of your visits, and keep track of organic search results - if this is beginning to increase then your product and brand is becoming more familiar.

7. Sales performance

Finally and perhaps a little simplistic, but have you spotted an increase in sales performance for your products or services since launching a PR media campaign, where you have spotted any of the aforementioned results, it’s likely that all these elements have contributed to the uptick. This is definitely what you would consider a PR success.

As you can see, measuring the success of a PR campaign is not just one element. Of course there are still the old fashioned methods of calculating successes, such as using Equivalent Advertising Values of the article, which has been a topic of much debate over the years. While it does give some sort of idea of ‘worth’, we don’t advocate using this as a tool. [PR Week covered this in 2009, and the use of EAV wages on. Talkwater covers similar KPIs as us.]

We believe that using a combination of methods is the best way to measure success. PR is indeed a science and in science, there are many variables to consider. No ‘one size fits all’ method will work when measuring the success of your PR campaign, so at risk of sounding like a cliche, it’s important to think outside of the box when measuring PR and if at first you don’t succeed, keep on trying.

Ultimately if coverage is in a good title, has the right messaging, is positive and where relevant has links, your campaign has been a huge success.

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