If you use a PR agency to help build brand awareness for your company, that's great... but how are you measuring that and what does success look like?
These are the question that have always been on my mind since I co-founded March Communications in 2005.
From the beginning we have always been focused on taking the guesswork out of PR. This involves giving clients frequent updates and analysis, tracking activities against defined KPIs and generally making sure that they know exactly what we are spending our time on and what that means in terms of coverage, interviews, blog posts and bylines produced.
As analytics tools have become increasingly sophisticated and PR has become increasingly digitized, the opportunities -- and expectations -- for PR have risen. A blog post may not be enough anymore. Instead, clients want reports on traffic. Is that blog post actually doing anything to improve traffic? How many people are sharing it on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? What about SEO?
Today, every PR firm should be putting more emphasis on hard data. Measurement needs to span across Google Analytics, social channels and other platforms equally, so clients can be given regular reports on growth and strategies.
In 2014, PR is going to take more steps in the content marketing game -- that is, leveraging output from the PR campaign to solicit relevant traffic and capture leads -- which in turn will give us even more concrete and tangible tracking and reporting data points.
A Byline, a Blog Post and a Lead Walk into a Bar
PR has been getting into the content game in a big way. Agencies are writing blog posts and bylines, while building social media communities across channels. We're crafting presentations that are used in speaking engagements or uploaded to SlideShare. March has seriously invested in more eBook and video resources, too, along with survey and market research capabilities.
That kind of premium content can get a lot of mileage. Beyond the PR campaign, an original survey can be packaged into an eBook to drive significant coverage and, better yet, significant leads. Online news outlets are taking a lot of contributed content these days. If you have a great byline to offer that discusses survey results, then link to that survey, you haven't just created a PR campaign, you've created a content marketing campaign.
Often, this means planning things out ahead of time. The premium content has to be in place before outreach begins, especially if you plan to build a landing page or a form that captures email addresses and company information. From there, you can announce the content on the company blog. A diverse agency today should be able to offer help on all of these fronts, working as a nimble player that can navigate between company silos, media and third parties involved in research or website development, but with storytelling at its heart.
When PR agencies can build a content marketing campaign from start to finish and amplify that content with strategic influencer relations, the potential is limitless. A byline that gets placed in Forbes and links to the company website, for example, can help drive serious traffic to a new eBook, guide or survey -- if the website is ready to direct all that referral traffic to the landing page.
If the premium content is in place when bylines, interviews and coverage have started to go live, PR programs can direct prospects straight to the top of the funnel. With a landing page or email form in place, clients will immediately start to see solid lead generation through both outreach and content initiatives.
Nurture and Nature
The traditional media landscape has eroded but, so too, has the landscape of advertising. Gone are the days where a flashing banner ad could procure clicks from prospects. Today, it's all about targeted, native advertising across specific channels, with specific content.
With the right marketing collateral and the right audience, PR firms can generate leads for clients, whether through LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, Promoted Tweets or Google Adwords. The democratization of advertising platforms has made it far easier -- and more affordable -- for businesses to leverage native advertising.
Measurement tools and platforms have become democratized, too. By monitoring web traffic, the number of premium content downloads, social media followers and other metrics, it's possible to really get granular when measuring the success of a campaign. Is your PR agency keeping up?
Diversification and adaptation should be the two biggest buzzwords for any firm this year. At March, we've built an entire content division with video editing and production capabilities and marketing services. We've also expanded into market research, with a team of dedicated research analysts.
At this point, PR campaigns are only limited by the scope of the agency -- and every PR firm should be ready to surpass those limits, every time.
Want to learn more about the role of PR and content marketing together? Check out our eBook on the topic.