So much of marketing is about making the case for why your business and products are worth choosing. But the things you say about yourself are never quite as powerful as when a third-party talks about you. That’s part of why PR (public relations) is so important for B2B (business-to-business) companies. Anytime your business gets mentioned in an industry publication or media outlet, it raises your profile and makes you look that much more trustworthy to potential customers.
PR measurement is difficult though. Even just figuring out the right B2B PR metrics is a challenge for many businesses.
Even though it’s hard, figuring out how best to measure your B2B PR efforts is important.
For one thing, “measuring B2B PR success helps you gauge where you are with respect to your competitors,” explains Ruben Gamez, Founder and CEO of Signwell. No business sells in a vacuum—your customers will be measuring you against your competitors. PR measurement can help you see the bigger picture in your marketing.
Tracking metrics is also important because, quite simply, “if you aren't collecting data, you'll never know if your strategies are working,” according to Daivat Dholakia, Director of Operations at Force by Mojio.
“PR analysis will help you strategize for your plans and campaigns in a more quantitative and data-driven way, and you can emphasize publications where your news matters the most,” adds Hena Kausar, Lead PR & Corporate Communications at Mercer Mettl.
PR measurement can help you improve not only your future PR campaigns, but also other marketing efforts. Tyler Garns of Box Out Marketing points out “measuring PR is used to determine what types of material are attractive and valuable, thereby guiding future content development.”
And of course, measurement matters because money matters. “B2B PR can be a blackhole of spending if you're not careful,” Matt Lally, the founder of The Gift Yak, explains. For any strategy you pursue that requires a financial investment, you need a way to figure out if the cost is worth it.
Picking the right B2B PR metrics to collect will depend on the main goals of your PR efforts. Here are some expert-recommended suggestions to consider.
1. Share of voice
An ideal PR outcome would be to become the first brand people think of when they hear about your industry. But your own PR efforts are just one part of the equation in achieving that. It also matters how you stack up against your competitors. For that, you need to measure share of voice.
“Share of voice refers to how many mentions the company is getting compared to competitors' mentions,” says Greg Rozdeba, President of Dundas Life. One of the best ways to measure share of voice is via social data. Software can simplify the process of tracking your social mentions against those of your competitors, so you can see how press coverage impacts how much they’re talking about you.
2. Share of audience attention
Analyzing what portion of the conversation around a topic relates to your brand can tell you something valuable about how often people associate your brand with topics relevant to your industry. But for most B2B brands, your target audience isn’t necessarily everyone talking about that topic—it’s a specific subset of those people.
“The core pillar of share of audience attention rests upon one single factor and that is audience intelligence,” explains Digital Strategist Michael Brito. “It means building an audience first before you analyze a conversation or behavior.” Share of audience attention helps you understand what portion of the specific audience you want to reach is talking about you. That can be a more useful measure than knowing how much of the wide world is.
3. Press clippings and media impressions
Liam Mills, the CEO at ValueHunta recommends the combo of press clippings and media impressions as a good way to track PR success. That means “the number of publications (or other media channels) that mention [your] company or brand,” along with “the number of impressions the press clippings made to our viewers.”
Collecting this data requires tracking all the mentions you can find in various media channels, including magazines, journals, blogs, and social media.
4. Website traffic
While knowing someone encountered your brand name in the press is nice, it’s better if that brand mention leads them to take action to learn more about you. For lots of consumers, the main action they’ll take to learn more is a website visit.
“In my experience, measuring website traffic has been the most effective method to measure a PR campaign’s performance,” says SEO expert Scott Keever. “Using Google Analytics to measure it is very helpful, as it allows you to evaluate key demographics of your website’s visitors. And also tells you where the traffic is originating from,” he adds.
Rozdeba’s second recommended B2B PR metric is backlinks. “Marketers should track how many backlinks from high authority websites they are able to secure through their PR programs,” he recommends. “High-quality backlinks help boost the company's website rankings, which increases accessibility and reach to potential clients.”
Many SEO (search engine optimization) tools make it easy to track the number and placement of new backlinks as you earn them.
6. Brand and team member mentions
Links aren’t the only way to track if publications are talking about you. Oftentimes, they’ll mention your business without including a link. “As part of our strategy, we track and measure [mentions of] the name of our agency, the names of the most important employees, and pseudonyms of the company,” says Taylor Ryan, the CEO of Klint.
Those mentions translate into earned attention for your company, and they also double as potential link building opportunities. “If the websites that mention our agency have strong domain authority, we contact the site editors, thank them for mentioning us, and kindly request a link to our site,” Ryan adds.
7. Messaging effectiveness
Part of why consumers are more likely to trust third-party mentions of your brand is because they know the information is provided by someone unbiased. For the brand, that means you don’t have total control over the messaging. Measuring PR through numbers alone risks missing out on the part of PR that will matter most to your audience: what the PR stories are actually saying about you.
Hannah Chudleigh of Cook Medical tracks messaging effectiveness by working with company leaders to make a list of messaging points. “When the trade publications pick up the news, I go through the articles and see how many of those messaging points were included,” she explains. “This form of measurement is best with a media monitoring service, so I can search for keywords to make sure messaging points were included and I can also see sentiment analysis.”
8. Message resonance
Tracking how well the press is conveying the messaging you want to get out there matters, but it’s just as important to figure out if audiences are understanding the information you want to get across. Sai Blackbyrn, CEO of Coach Foundation, therefore also measures message resonance.
“Message resonance refers to whether the public has understood and accepted the message the PR campaign intended to deliver,” he says. You can use surveys and focus groups to get feedback on what messaging your audience is taking away from your PR campaigns.
9. Media reach
Not all press mentions are created equal. A mention in the New York Times will earn you more attention than one on a local blog (although they’re both worth something). “Calculating the potential readers of your publications through media monitoring platforms can help quantify your PR, allowing you to make better decisions for your company,” says Keever.
10. Qualified Leads
A lot of these metrics are about measuring attention and awareness, which are metrics that matter. But as Eden Cheng, Co-founder of PeopleFinderFree explains, “the end goal of any B2B PR campaign strategy usually comes down to one simple question, which is, has the campaign managed to positively influence the number of active sales inquiries?”
Ideally, you want your B2B PR efforts to lead to sales. An important metric to help you track if your PR campaigns are helping with that is the number of qualified leads. “At the extreme least, you should guarantee that you're upgrading for MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads),” says Peter James Manzano, Link Building Specialist at Thrive Agency. “Yet to be genuinely effective, you need to go considerably more profound and improve for SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads),” he adds.
11. Lead nurturing metrics
Leads are great and all, but most B2B products require a long period of nurturing in between when someone first hears about your brand and is ready to buy. Beyond tracking qualified leads, you also want to pay attention to how many of those leads move through the sales funnel.
Alex Claro, VPN Analyst at Credit Donkey suggests “lead nurturing allows you to keep in touch with leads that aren't ready to buy right now but will in the future. You'll contribute more to revenue growth if you can place these leads in a nurturing campaign and eventually get
them back into the sales funnel.”
Marketing and sales can work together to determine which lead nurturing metrics are most useful in tracking a prospect’s progress through the funnel.
12. Social mentions
“It's very worthwhile to track social media shares,” says David McHugh, CEO and Founder of My Mixify. “Shares show you just how interesting the articles you're mentioned in or publish on your own are to a wider audience.”
Using social data to measure PR impact can give you an idea of the reach of your press mentions, and whether they’re resonating with the particular audience you want seeing them most.
13. Conversion metrics
According to Julia Ewert, “the number one way to measure PR results is from sales conversions.” PR efforts can be effective in raising awareness of your brand, but still not help you meet business goals if that awareness never translates into conversions.
Jon Buchan, CEO of Charm Offensive, argues that Lead-To-Close-Conversion Rate (CVR) is the best method for measuring B2B PR success “because it analyzes the quality of leads.” If your PR efforts are primarily reaching leads that never convert, you need to know that. “You need the right customers who actually make the purchase,” Buchan argues.
14. Customer lifetime value
What’s even better than a customer that actually makes a purchase? One that keeps buying from you over the long term. That’s why Cale Loken, the CEO of 301 Consulting names customer lifetime value as a crucial B2B PR metric to track. “Our company focuses solely on customers and their retention,” he explains. “Most of our competitors have been relying on up front deals and we have realized that customers are what make or break a marketing campaign for any business.”
If a PR campaign helps land you customers that stick with your business for years to come, then it’s worth more than even your initial conversion metrics suggest.
The initial goal of PR is awareness, which is difficult to measure. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. By using these metrics, combined with some smart strategies and tools, you can establish how successful your PR efforts are, and find ways to make them better over time.