4 Ways to Show PR Value

Kate Lobel
By Kate Lobel

Think PR doesn’t matter? Think again.

These days, Public Relations is more than just brand awareness. It drives dollars. So, if you haven’t opened your eyes to its power, consider this your not-so-subtle hint: Last election, Donald Trump spent less money on TV advertising than any other major candidate. However—and this is huge—he earned more free media than any of them—almost $2 billion worth, in fact. The takeaway? PR counts.

PR brings direct attention to your brand, but with a credibility that ads can’t hold a candle to.

Think about it: Which resonates more with you? An article on a credible website about the awesomeness of a new service or a paid ad on your Facebook feed from the company who provides it? Exactly.

Additionally, your PR won’t “time out” the way your advertising (and its budget) will. While an ad placed on a website may stick around for 10 days, the article touting your newest product release will be out there for a lot longer.

Your PR is a conversation starter. It’s your opportunity to tell a story that resonates with people. After all, at our core, we’re all storytellers. It’s how we help explain complexities, relay information in a memorable way, and trigger emotion from our readers.

In fact, a recent study published by UC Berkeley showed that effective storytelling causes the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone” responsible for softening people’s emotions toward a cause or calling. Imagine what a powerful PR story could do for your sales.

Digital + Traditional PR

Here are a few ways to show that PR adds value other than just brand awareness:

Online Placement with Links

Straight out of the horse’s mouth? Not in this case.

The best way to promote yourself is to have others do the promoting. Harnessing the power that outsider validation innately contains. This is the cream of the earned media crop, so to speak.

Here at Power Digital, for example, we focus specifically on digital PR placements because there is inherently so much more credibility and authenticity value when an independent article or site contains a link back to your website. Additionally, digital PR provides more opportunities to measure performance and direct revenue as compared to other, more traditional PR, like print media, for example.

How you go about external link building will come down to your research. Keyword research is a great place to start and will dictate the focus of your campaigns. Which words pop up the most? What’s being clicked on the most?

From there, decide if it’s effective for you to target hyper-specific, relevant niche websites or blogs. If not, or in combination with the smaller players, opt for the more traditional route: positive exposure in larger networks like news and media websites.

If you’re consistently aiming to bring something of value to the table—to educate, amuse, or aid your readers—your material stands a better chance at being picked up.

Utilize social listening tools to keep up with what’s trending – and then find a way to be a valuable part of the conversation in a helpful or entertaining way. Do you have tantalizing statistics to add to the conversation? Is there an expert on your executive team who may contribute meaningful quotes to a story? What about a catchy infographic or helpful whitepaper? Do you have an oh-so-perfect photo opportunity that press would relish? Offer it up!

In a cacophony of media noise, highlight what you offer that’s uniquely yours – and consider who might utilize your offering.

The placement of this material, with a link back to your website, is a powerful megaphone for your business—but may require you to make the initial offer to larger media sources, blogs, or websites.

Once you’ve made the placement, how do you measure its direct impact on revenue?

Easy! Take a peek at the Google Analytics for your website. Here, you can track referral traffic and look at any single PR placement to see pertinent insights. For example, Google Analytics will tell you how many people visited the website, what their behavioral metrics were, and if they converted. Dig deeper to find out readers’ time on site, pages per visit, and bounce rate.

From here, you can see the dollar amount for total checkouts. It’s a great way to see direct ROI for PR efforts. Talk about proving your worth!

Create UTMs to Track Campaigns

Break it down. Similar to securing online placements with links, create campaign-level UTMs. A UTM is an Urchin Tracking Module.

Say what?

Put simply, a UTM code is a code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, and/or a campaign name. They’re usually the reason behind the really long links you click.

Many professionals avoid them because they seem cumbersome or time-consuming, but don’t be afraid.

By using UTMs, you can dive into Google Analytics under “Campaigns” and look, at a campaign level, for specific PR pushes. It will tell you where searchers came from as well as what campaign directed them to you.

Say, for example, you were doing a PR push around one product. You could create a campaign parameter for this and then see which outlets drove the most revenue during that campaign in particular.

In other words, you’re letting Google Analytics getting the 411 on all your traffic.

When creating your UTMs through UTM Builder in Google Analytics, it’ll ask you for five fields of information:

  1. Source – This is where your traffic originates from.
  2. Medium—Examples of these include cost per click or social media.
  3. Term – Use this to track keywords.
  4. Content –This is ideal for A/B testing of two variables.
  5. Name – This is simply the name of your campaign.

A word to the wise: Keep your naming conventions consistent, lowercase, clean, and descriptive. This takes out confusion and human error down the road. In the long run, it allows your metrics to be reportable. A “Best Practices” guide for anyone else who may make UTM codes will help ensure everyone sticks to the same rules.

From there, connect your PR efforts to revenue. You do this by linking your Google Analytics data to your CRM. You’ll gain access to the direct correlations between your PR efforts and the money stream. And that’s what the big bosses care about, isn’t it?

However, because nothing is perfect, do know that UTMs do have a small drawback: Even if you switch to different mediums and networks, your UTMs are like lint on a black dress: they stick.

What does this mean? If a visitor copies your link from an email and posts it to their Facebook account, it will still “count” on your back end as an email share. The only surefire way to prevent this is to clear your UTM codes once sharing has occurred – but we recognize that’s not always easy to manage.

Instead, know that UTM-derived metrics are not the be-all and end-all, but part of a much larger equation and should be considered within larger contexts.

Assisted Conversions

Think of these as the “assist” in basketball. These are the interactions your website’s visitors have before the final interaction and, ultimately, a conversion. Each visitor interaction is given a value based on the customer’s eventual level of conversion.

And “eventual” is putting it mildly. Let’s face it, customers are typically groomed over time before they convert.

Typically, they want to learn a bit about you, window shop a bit, compare prices, read reviews, and maybe even talk to their friends or colleagues before they can commit.

So why are assisted conversions so important to pay attention to? Assisted conversions give credit where credit is due. Without paying attention to assisted conversions, if someone interacted with your online PR campaign weeks before they went to your website and hired your services or bought your product, there would be no reflection of the value that your PR campaign had on the ultimate sale.

So, don’t forget to see who the backseat driver of your revenue is.

Conversions can be broken down in Google Analytics by channel or campaign, for example. This is important, as you may notice that while a reference to your campaign on social media is contributing very little to direct conversions, it is a major player in assisted conversions and, therefore, still worth your attention and PR efforts.

Here at Power Digital, we have been able to track thousands of additional dollars earned through assisted conversions, meaning they may have seen the PR placement first but ultimately converted through another channel, like a pay-per-click ad, paid social, or email.

In the end, assisted conversions are a way to prioritize your PR efforts and priorities—and validate PR’s role in conversions.

Leverage Placements with Paid Ads

This is the magical place where your marketing and PR forces unite.

Examples of this tactic include buying the opportunity to contribute an article or blog; purchasing a mention of your business in a larger, relevant article; or sponsoring a blog series about your organization.

Any way you slice it, you’re bumping up the potency of your PR placements and, if its digital, allowing yourself the ability to track its connectedness to sales.

You control the message (either writing it yourself or approving of it). You control the timing (got a new service rolling out?).

It’s a win-win. Look for sites and placements with a pertinent audience and a certain level of credibility.

And don’t forget to negotiate. If the cost of the placement is firm, discuss the addition of secondary benefits: a complementary and, an article mention, or an email blast.

Here at Power Digital, we use our PR placements in ads on Facebook through the use of a tool called Sniply. Sniply allows us to further promote our PR placements as a third-party endorsement. We find these custom call-to-actions convert very well because they are not overtly sales-like. This is because they drive readers, instead, to a blog or piece of media coverage that discusses our brand but isn’t directly on our own website.

It will then let you retarget ads for those who visited the original PR placement through Sniply. If readers were introduced via an article but didn’t convert right away, they can be pinged with an ad that pushes them more directly into the brand’s website. In other words, if they don’t take the carrot, you can opt for a less subtle approach.  

Wrapping Up

Remember that PR takes time. You’re cultivating a relationship, building trust, and establishing your reputation. That doesn’t come overnight.

But there are tricks to this trade.

Remember to let others do the talking.

Online mentions that refer readers back to your website will always bring a more open-minded visitor to your page than if they see self-promoted material.

Start by creating a UTM naming convention and get to “tagging” your links. Track your campaigns and learn more about what mediums, channels, and patterns should be getting most of your team’s valuable attention.

Don’t forget about your often-undervalued assisted conversions in the larger picture, as they can be extremely powerful at setting you up for a seamless conversion.

Finally, leverage your PR mentions in paid advertising. If you’ve been mentioned elsewhere online, the hard part is done. You now need to assume the role of a megaphone and get the word out! It’s all about harmonizing your ad, marketing, and PR resources.

Your PR efforts are likely bringing value to the table and it’s on your shoulders to prove it. In what has often been deemed an amorphous, cloudy industry, give your business executives the metrics they crave by drilling down to tie your PR efforts to their business value.

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Kate is the director of Public Relations at Power Digital Marketing with an extenisve background in traditional media relations and digital marketing with the goal of bridging the gap between brand awareness and ROI.