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The Science of Marketing and Public Relations

The Science of Marketing and Public Relations

You got approval for a $3 Million marketing budget from the C-suite.

While that may sound small to some and exorbitant to others – the one guarantee is the marketing team will be required to “prove their value” after the money is spent.

Unlike some other departments who can say we bought 100 widgets at $1 instead of $2 – saving the company $100 – as marketing has grown more complex over the years, it has also become more difficult to show the return on investment at the end of the day.

But, we all know that saying “it’s difficult to measure” or even worse “we don’t know what value we got from that byline or advertisement” is not an acceptable response to leadership. The C-Suite, rightly so, wants to understand what they are getting for their money. Likewise, we wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars on a car without expecting it to work every day and last for several years. We want to know we got our money’s worth.

Marketers and public relations experts must learn the data and science of the profession. So, how do you measure a byline, a press release, an email campaign, social media, or an advertisement?

Step 1: Know the goals

Do not skip this step! Before embarking on an extensive marketing strategy that the team spent weeks putting together, know your company goals. What are leadership’s short-term and long-term plans? Is it a start-up needing more brand recognition or is it in a growth-stage needing quality lead generation?

Understanding where the company is today and where leadership is heading will help drive your marketing strategy. Share your marketing plans with the leadership team to get buy-in and agree upfront on the metrics that you plan to measure.

Step 2: Set the metrics and know the terminology

Now that you know the goals, it’s time to set your success metrics. How will you know if your plan is successful? Depending upon your strategy, you will use varying measures for different tactics. Below is a subset to consider.

  • Share of Voice (SOV): Measure the percentage of coverage and mentions of your brand in the media compared to your competitors.
  • Coverage: Track the number of times your brand is mentioned in the media along with where it is mentioned.
  • Website traffic: Google Analytics is a very useful tool to monitor unique page views, bounce rates, conversion rates, average session duration, and referral sites.
  • Domain authority: A term coined by Moz – your domain authority ranking will compare your overall website, including SEO and keyword rankings, to give you a number 1-100. The higher the number the great authority your site holds within your industry.
  • Social Media: Track beginning and ending metrics including followers, likes and shares. Determine which content and messaging provides the greatest engagement with your audience.
  • Impressions and click-thru rates: With advertisements you will want to view not only the number of people that saw your ad but more importantly, how many clicked on your ad.
  • Conversion ratios: The percentage or ratio of people that clicked on an email, ad, or social content, etc. that then completed a call-to-action. This includes downloading content, completing a form for a demo, and even registering for a webinar.
  • Open rates and click-thru rates: When delivering emails or drip campaigns, you can monitor their success based upon the number of people that opened the email and the number of people that then clicked on a link within the email.
  • Cost-per-lead (CPL): To many in leadership, if you start speaking in terms of CPL – you’ll be speaking their language. Calculating the costs of your activity divided by the number of leads you gained will give you the CPL.
  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL): While this one is probably one of the most important, the definition often varies from company to company. Typically, this is a lead that has a business need, understands what you offer, and has an interest in buying your product or service.

The metrics you choose should align appropriately with the tactics you will produce and the goals of your company. Putting these in place upfront will help avoid confusion at the end of the year.

Step 3: Make sure you have the right tools

While many marketers did not get into marketing to become data analysts, the move toward digital marketing requires a successful marketer to understand and use data wisely. Fortunately, many companies have developed tools to help analyze marketing results and prove value. There are many free or relatively inexpensive tools you can use to monitor your metrics.

Most marketers will start with free tools, and depending on the complexity of their business may purchase additional tools. Due to the overwhelming number of tools on the market, make sure you understand exactly what you are getting and any feature restrictions or limitations. In addition, make sure you use all the benefits of your marketing tools. Often you may purchase an email marketing tool without realizing you can also create landing pages, deliver social strategies and even host your webpages.

The key is not to get overwhelmed. Know what you need to measure and select the tools that are right for you.

 

That Ol’ PR Magic…Real Examples from Amendola Clients

The question I hear most often from new clients and prospects is, “How do we know if PR program is working and how can we measure our success?”

It’s not an easy question!

To begin with, the goal of PR is to increase brand awareness…and that’s not an easily quantifiable objective. It almost always comes from multiple touch points, plus calls for insight into different media outlets’ true audience numbers. That’s something my team works hard to get, as we’re not content to just take as a given the numbers these outlets report.

But here’s where the questions about PR success get scary for some in our profession. What customers and prospects really want to know is, how many leads will a PR program generate?

Honestly, this is only quantifiable if you put the work into web analytics and lead scoring, and tightly align your PR and marketing teams. We love our clients that go these extra lengths! Even better if you can align with a service such as Meltwater to measure and track placements and sentiment.

But that said, I have to tell you…we hear from clients regularly that lead gen is a happy byproduct of PR, even when they aren’t taking those extra steps!

Here are just a few real examples of this PR magic:

  • After securing a case study commitment from a hospital that used our client’s predictive analytics, we were able to place this customer success story in a healthcare publication that hospital CIOs regularly read. Sure enough, our client’s phone was soon ringing from a CIO who had read the story and said, “This is the tool we ought to be using.” Shortly after, this hospital launched a pilot of our client’s solution, and from there, became a full-fledged and highly quotable customer.
  • We landed one of our clients a coveted spot on a leading publication’s symposium on the opioid crisis. After the panel discussion, a prospect approached our client, who shared with us, “We basically closed a $1 million deal right then and there.”
  • One of our telehealth clients has raced up the Google rankings thanks to the many PR placements we’ve secured. This has been particularly meaningful for our client’s marketing department, which typically expends significant resources on keeping these rankings high. According to our client, PR has organically done what paid SEO never did: garner the top ranking in the client’s respective space. “And made our competition a distant spec in search ranking!” said our client.
  • 10 minutes after a story we pitched to a trade publication ran the client received a qualified lead.
  • Industry conference publications are a hard outlet to crack unless paying for a spot, but this past year, we managed to secure a number of write ups for Amendola clients, at no cost, in one of the most widely read publications in the lead up to HIMSS18. This resulted in prospects reaching out to our clients, including to one client whose CEO subsequently sent out a memo stating, “This is what PR and marketing does for us.”

Check out more examples of Amendola’s PR magic at our collection of customer success stories here. As you’ll see, PR does work…in many ways, to achieve many different business goals.

Interesting in making some magic with us? Shoot me an email at jamendola@acmarketingpr.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Taking A Measure of PR Measurement

So there you are, listening to the PR agencies you’ve brought in to pitch your business. Everything is going swimmingly, and you think you’ve found your top candidate. Then you do it – ask the one question that strikes fear into the heart of nearly every PR professional: what sort of PR measurement tools will you use to measure success?

At that point the air gets thick, and suddenly the only sound in what was once a room filled with lively discussion is the steady whirring of the HVAC system in the background.

It’s not that PR people are afraid to be measured on their accomplishments. It’s just that they’ve been down this road enough times to know that’s not really the question that’s being asked. The actual question is more along the lines of “How will you prove your campaign was solely responsible for improving our sales?” That goes double if it’s the VP of Sales who asked the question.

While it would be awesome if you could do it, tying PR to sales isn’t really a fair measure of the effectiveness of the campaign. That’s not just me saying that.

A few weeks ago I attended a webinar led by PR measurement guru Katie Delahaye Paine where she discussed this topic. The analogy she used was a PR campaign to sell cars. If the campaign succeeds in driving 100 people to the showroom but no cars are sold, would you say the campaign failed? Doubtful.

There could be all kinds of reasons the cars weren’t sold. Maybe the showroom never opened. Maybe the salespeople were rude or incompetent. Maybe prospects went for a test drive and discovered the interior noise level was somewhere between “WWII-era Sherman tank” and “jet engine.” Maybe everyone wanted a yellow car and it didn’t come in yellow. You get the idea.

Whatever the reason, it’s not because the PR campaign didn’t do its job. The people came. They just didn’t like what they found once they got there.

The stakes go up with HIT

When you’re talking about health IT (HIT) products or services it gets even more difficult to attribute a sale directly to the PR campaign. First of all, the average HIT offering costs many times more than a car. Would you buy a car based on what you read in a press release, or a byline article, or even a white paper?

Highly unlikely. Once you became aware of the car you’d probably want to research it on the Internet – see what professional reviewers say as well as people who already own that vehicle. You’d want to compare it to other models. You’d want to kick the tires (even though that’s completely pointless) and take it for a test drive. Cars cost too much money, and most of us keep them for too long, to just purchase one based on the PR campaign.

So why would anyone purchase an expensive HIT product or service their business depends on, and that they’ll probably have to live with for a few years, based solely on a PR campaign?

The answer, quite frankly, is they wouldn’t. Most things in HIT are considered purchases that require many exposures and steps before the decision is made. The PR campaign will be useful in creating awareness, and a good content program will help walk the prospect through the decision-making process.

But at the end of that cycle, which could take several months or even a year or two, it will be very difficult to suss out exactly how much PR contributed to the sales that do happen. Not to mention virtually impossible to determine how many sales didn’t occur due to some issue that had nothing to do with the quality or effectiveness of the PR campaign.

There is an exception, at least for online sales. Google Analytics does have a pretty sophisticated way of tracking the lifecycle of a sale. Rather than simply relying on the last click, the analytics can associate all the activities of individual users together to provide a history of all their clicks, including their entry point off a PR campaign. That, however, takes some pretty sophisticated work performed by outside specialists. Given that purchasing HIT products and services is a team sport, you have to determine whether it’s worth the time and effort to attribute those sales to PR.

Oh, and as far as ad equivalencies go, don’t bother. Calculating the cost of purchasing the same space versus getting it “free” from PR pretty much went out with parachute pants and giant boom boxes.

What you can measure

Ok, if that doesn’t work for measuring PR, what does?

One good measure is web traffic. The measurement can be overall web traffic, and/or spikes that occur around a PR campaign event such as a press release going out or content appearing in a media outlet or blog.

Measuring spikes in traffic is akin to the so-called “flush test” back in the early days of TV. Executives judged the popularity of Milton Berle’s program by the noticeable drop in water levels when the show went to commercial. Not exactly precise, but it does provide some indication your materials are causing prospects to take a positive action.

Another measure is downloads of your materials. These generally break into two categories – the materials that can be freely downloaded, and gated content that requires visitors to give you their name and email address in order to complete the download.

Free downloads are good for gauging general interest among those considered “suspects,” i.e., the casual consumers of your materials. Those willing to go through the requirements to obtain the gated materials are your more serious prospects.

Many organizations like to measure “share of voice” within their markets. They want to see how much of the conversation around a given topic they own versus their competitors.

A simple form of this measurement is volume, as in how many press releases did we put out compared to our competitors? You can also break comparisons down around earned media (interviews, byline articles, product reviews, or anything that requires some effort on the part of the media outlet) and positive-negative-neutral coverage.

The latter generally isn’t a good measure in HIT because the coverage in general will almost always be positive. HIT media outlets are generally looking to inform their audiences about ideas, products, and services they can use, not tear them apart like the political media. In some rare instances, however, positive-negative-neutral can be relevant.

There are others as well. The key is to start by determining what is important to help your organization drive the activities that lead to sales, and then measure the success of those activities. For example, if you know that securing 50 sales at the end of the year requires 2,500 prospects to be deep in the sales funnel (downloading gated content, speaking with salespeople, etc.), and getting 2,500 prospects means you need 15,000 suspects downloading free content out of a total of 100,000 visitors to your website, you have a pretty good idea of how to measure success.

If you do all the other steps but miss the mark on the 50 sales, you’ll also know you either need to adjust your upstream figures, or you have a problem in closing the sale. Either way, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what your next steps should be.

Measure to inform
One of my other favorite things Katie Paine says is to only measure what you’re willing to change. There is no point in measuring the value of wearing pants if you will never not wear pants.

To make PR measurement work, you must understand the actions you’re trying to drive and be willing to change the program if it isn’t driving those actions. Once everyone understands the goals, and PR’s role in achieving them, you’ll know how to measure success.