Now that so many of a brand’s interactions with its audiences take place online, the communications industry can move a little closer to genuinely measuring its value to clients and its impact on core business areas like sales or leads generated. Using free – or at least reasonably priced – online tools, communications professionals can track fairly well the behaviour of our clients’ target audiences, from publication of coverage, to website visits, to newsletter sign-ups and to sales. In the process, we can prove like never before that what we do actually works.
So if you’re still doing AVEs then hold onto your rate cards, because here are four measurements you can make online that will change the way your clients think about their PR results for good:
Google Analytics is fast becoming an essential tool for proving the value of communications work. However, if you think it can only measure traffic from online sources, think again. True, tracking referrals from online sources is a piece of cake with Google Analytics, but if you know what you’re doing, you can track website activity following a big piece of print coverage with custom alerts. With these, there’s no reason why that feature in the Financial Times can’t be identified as the source of a spike in average traffic levels.
As an extension of the above point, but taking a slightly longer term view, what do you think an increase in branded searches might mean? I would say brand recognition is increasing and, furthermore, your audience is being prompted to act. Now that’s a PR result! Even more interesting might be to plot instances of coverage (online, print, broadcast or social media) against the increase in branded searches to see what patterns can be established.
Take a quick look at of the best SEO blogs and you’ll see how much they all worship the kind of coverage we in this industry take for granted. Followed links are (at the moment, anyway) a key signpost for Google when choosing where to rank a site in its search results. So securing coverage on sites considered to have a high level of authority – national news outlets, for example – with a followed link included to your client’s site is a PR result that you should take credit for each and every time it happens.
This isn’t a new one, of course, but it is a glaring example of the PR default position of using volume to indicate quality. By instead combining a social share count with referral data from Google Analytics, you can unlock a much richer insights. Go a step further and set up funnels to track the on-site behaviour of these visitors and you can ascertain if they’re getting what they want from your site or not, or whether some changes are in order to encourage sales, sign-ups or demo requests.
From engagement, clicks and shares, it’s only a short hop to leads and sales. Therefore, it won’t be long before much of an agency’s value can be put to the test by cold, hard, attributable and indisputable numbers. I don’t know about you, but this is the moment I’ve been waiting for.
Find out more about TopLine’s data-driven approach to communications here.