In the ever changing, magical world of public relations, having the ability to measure digital PR success accurately is crucial, and it’s a lot easier than you might think.
Unlike traditional PR, effective digital PR campaigns come with a ton of data and analytics to back them up that can be used to evaluate success. Though, with so many metrics and indicators at your disposal, it’s essential to identify the most relevant to what you want to achieve with the campaign.
While off-page optimisation is vital for SEO performance and a high number of quality backlinks is always great (I live for them, sad I know #linkz4lyfe), it might be that building brand awareness is also a priority. Or, you might want to drive traffic to a particular area of your website, something like a competition landing page perhaps.
So, here I’m going to explore eleven different ways to gauge the impact of a campaign beyond the number of links so you get a more well-rounded view of the success of your digital PR efforts…
“Methods for accessing news in the UK continue to evolve towards digital. 2017 marked the first year when the proportion of people using online platforms (74 percent) to access news overtook those using television (69 percent) and print (41 percent)”– Julie Firmstone, Associate Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds, for medialandscapes.org
Media Mentions and Coverage
With the above in mind, one of the fundamental metrics for assessing digital PR success is media mentions and coverage. Monitor the number of times your brand, product, or story is mentioned in various online publications, blogs, news sites, and social media.
A significant amount of media coverage can indicate a successful campaign, as it suggests that your message is reactive enough to be relevant and resonates with the target audience.
TOP TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask publications/websites if they have a content calendar of upcoming features that they can share with you. While some will inevitably turn you away, some may be willing to share and this can help you plan and align future campaigns for a better chance of getting some coverage.
Audience Reach and Impressions
Reach and impressions measure how far your PR campaign has extended its influence, particularly on social media.
Reach is the number of unique individuals who have seen your content, while impressions count the total number of times your content has been viewed. These metrics are vital for understanding the visibility and potential exposure your campaign has achieved.
Website Traffic and the Number of Referral Sources
An increase in website traffic, especially from referral sources related to your outreach efforts, is a clear indicator of success, and often the most important one when it comes to business KPIs. Analyse your website’s analytics to see if there has been a noticeable spike in visitors from links included in press releases, articles, or other PR content.
Social Media Engagement
Social media platforms offer a rich source of data to evaluate the impact of your digital PR campaign. Measure the engagement metrics, including likes, shares, comments, and retweets (or whatever they’re called these days), to determine how effectively your campaign is resonating with your target audience. High engagement rates often correlate with campaign success.
You can also see how much spread there’s been beyond your own output by using social listening tools like Social Mention, tools like this allow you to see who’s actively promoting your brand/content.
The success of a digital PR campaign isn’t just about generating buzz – it’s about converting that attention into actions.
Set up goals/events in analytics and track the conversion rate to measure the number of users who take a desired action (e.g. signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or requesting more information etc) after interacting with your PR content.
One important factor to consider here is the quality of your website. You could have the greatest PR campaign in the world, but if your website is performing poorly or is confusing to navigate, there’s a good chance you won’t get the engagement, and ultimately, the conversions you’d expect from the additional traffic.
Leading us nicely into…
Understanding the sentiment of online conversations surrounding your brand is a fantastic way to understand your audience more, what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.
Analyse the sentiment of mentions and comments related to your campaign. Positive sentiment indicates a favourable response that you can build upon, while negative sentiment (for example, frustration due to an iffy website) may suggest areas that need improvement or damage control.
If you’ve collaborated with influencers as part of your digital PR campaign, assess the impact of their involvement.
Monitor their reach, follower engagement, and track the extent they’ve gone to convey your message. Influencer-generated content can significantly improve your campaign’s reach and brand credibility, especially if it’s an influencer well aligned with your brand values as you’ll likely share a similar audience.
Search Engine Visibility
This might sound obvious to some, but evaluate your campaign’s impact on keyword rankings.
Tracking keywords and phrases related to your campaign can help you understand whether your PR efforts are contributing to improved visibility of your website.
Don’t be afraid to SEO optimise the content of your campaign with keywords relevant to the content and your site, with appropriate and strategic internal links. If the traffic being driven to your website as a result is engaged and relevant, then you’ve definitely hit the sweet spot as far as the crossover between SEO and digital PR goes.
And let’s not forget the juicy, juicy passive link juice the internal links in your content will get as a result of any backlinks your campaign picks up too. They’re infectious! But in a good way.
Customer Feedback and Surveys
Direct feedback from your target audience is invaluable.
Use surveys, polls or feedback forms to gather insights about the effectiveness of your digital PR campaign. Feedback can reveal whether your campaign achieved what you wanted it to and resonated with your audience. For example, if you ran a competition of some sort, you might ask those that signed up if they would participate in any future competitions.
Brand Mentions vs. Competitors
Comparing your brand mentions to those of your competitors can provide some really valuable insights into your campaign’s success. Track how often your brand is mentioned in relation to your competitors in online conversations, articles, and social media discussions etc.
Paid tools like Prowly’s Media Monitoring can be really useful for this, but there are also a number of free options out there if you’re on a budget, such as Google Alerts and Talkwalker. Though the insight they provide is limited by comparison, they can still help you get a better understanding of what’s going on in your industry sphere.
If your brand is consistently outperforming competitors in terms of mentions and positive sentiment, it would suggest a competitive advantage and your PR efforts are working.
This metric is really useful for assessing your brand’s share of the market from an audience perspective, and prominence within your industry or niche – hopefully demonstrating your campaign’s impact on brand recognition and authority.
ROI and Cost-Effectiveness
Last but certainly not least, consider the return on investment (ROI) and cost-effectiveness of your digital PR efforts.
Calculate the monetary value of the results generated by the campaign (average worth of a lead for eg) compared to the costs involved. ROI analysis helps you determine whether your campaign delivered a positive return and whether it aligns with your budgetary expectations or not.
This is something we’ve done for years, though focused mainly around link value vs time spent on the creative campaign. It’s proved to be a useful tool for deciding whether or not a campaign is worthy of a second run.
The Many Faces of Digital PR Success
The success of a digital PR campaign can be, and often is, multifaceted.
While some metrics, like media coverage and social media engagement, provide a broad overview, others, such as conversion rates and ROI, offer deeper insights into the campaign’s impact on your business goals.
By considering these eleven different measurements, you can develop a comprehensive understanding of the effects your digital PR efforts have had, which can help you make better informed decisions for future campaigns.
Just remember that the choice of metrics should align with your campaign objectives and KPIs to ensure the results you see accurately reflect your goals and targets.
Don’t forget to have fun with it too!