2020: The Kick up the Arse PR Needed

· Marketing, Public Relations

Why the focus on volume KPIs hurts the PR profession, encourages transactional media relationships and undermines marketers’ abilities to measure true impact. 

2020 has been one of the busiest news periods on record. From bushfires to COVID, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the kind of slow news day where PR fluff passes editorial scrutiny. The bar has been raised and only the most timely, relevant and engaging stories hit the press. 

While readership and audiences are up, it hasn’t been easy to navigate for many PR professionals whose success is measured by volume. But like many industries, it’s also a crisis we shouldn’t waste in resetting the goalposts. 

Why the Numbers Don’t Stack up 

The focus on developing data-led strategies, optimising campaigns and reporting with hard metrics means many marketers are plugging numbers into spreadsheets, and compiling platform analytics like a data scientist. 

Yet, for too long, media relations programs have sat as a separate, touchy feely and intangible part of the marketing mix, unmeasurable by anything but vanity metrics like clip count, circulation or advertising equivalents. 

It’s worth pausing for a second and reflecting on how archaic a metric like clip count really is. Measuring the number of media stories a brand is mentioned in is inherently simplistic and provides no insight into quality, value or impact. 

When I worked as an issues and crisis management specialist a decade ago, the thought of measuring achievements by clip count would have been laughable. In fact, seeing no story at all was often a win. 

With continued contraction at major mastheads, I believe it’s now more important than ever to be promoting quality journalism and meaningful relationships with media. Rather than an approach to PR focussed on hitting a volume KPI, we need to be pursuing respectful media relationships built on value for audiences. 

Why Is PR Measurement Stuck in the Dark ages? 

If I tapped one of my marketing colleagues on the shoulder and asked about the great work they’d been up to lately, they’d talk about the impact of their work. The moonlighting mathematician would cite the results of campaigns driving engagement, traffic, or generating conversions. 

Why? Because marketers are looking for performance data. They’re analysing what works and what doesn’t and optimising campaigns to reduce wasted resources along the way. 

So why is this not the philosophy when it comes to earned media? Why can’t we reframe our picture of success from the pure existence of a story to it being the right story, reaching the right audience at the right time, connected to real business objectives? 

Striving for Quality over Quantity 

Fed up with fluff, we’ve taken a big step away from measuring coverage by high-fives and pats on the back. 

Over the last five years, Keep Left has developed a more qualitative approach to assessing and reporting on the impact of media coverage. It involves having clarity on a single set of metrics that paint a picture of the ideal piece of coverage for each individual client and campaign.  

We’ve called it the Impact Score, and, essentially, it allows us to empirically prove what constitutes a ‘home run’ for each campaign. It factors in more than 50 metrics — things like length or page placement, social media engagement, brand and spokesperson prominence, message penetration, sentiment, imagery or inclusion of case studies. It can also include unique elements for each client; for some that’s having the brand in the headline, for others a backlink to their website.  

It holds us accountable with a hard score out of 100, keeps us laser focussed on the right activity and allows us to re-align our approach mid-campaign to maximise results. But most of all it elevates the strategic dialogue we have with clients.  

For example, we noticed initial coverage generated lower than anticipated scores for a financial services client at the start of a recent campaign we launched. On closer inspection through the impact score we noticed only one of the key messages was getting through. So we were able to re-brief our spokesperson to hone in on the other messaging and share them with a bit more colour — the resulting pieces scoring much higher.  

So What Does Success Look Like?  

This nationally syndicated 7News piece announcing Kathmandu’s Uber deliveries last month was almost two minutes long and packed full of key messages, product visuals and brand mentions. Its Impact Score was a tidy 95 out of 100, length and social media shares stopping us from cracking the ton. 

On the B2B side, this national Newscorp piece, secured at the start of August for COVID venue contact tracing solution GuestCheck, was the exact story we aimed to achieve to influence government and business decision makers. It scored 93 on the Impact Score. The only thing holding it back from perfection? Spokesperson prominence. 

This qualitative and customised approach to measurement has enabled our clients to think beyond mere volume to a value-driven mindset that aligns with their business strategy. 

Ultimately, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. So, let’s start thinking about earned media reporting in a more sophisticated way. Want to find out more about the Impact Score? Join our Head of Communications, Tim Lele on Thursday, October 8, at 2:00pm as he discusses why 2020 is the year to ditch the clip count and more with the Public Relations Institute of Australia.  

For more details and to register, Click here

Written by Keep Left · · Marketing, Public Relations
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