Public relations (PR) is one of those things you know it’s important to invest in, but proving its value can feel elusive. Surely getting a mention in an industry trade publication or a relevant influencer’s blog matters, but how can you know for sure how much it matters?
“Of all the marketing disciplines, PR is probably the hardest to measure,” says Heath Fradkoff of Ward 6 Marketing. “Why? Because the gatekeepers (the media) rarely share exact engagement numbers for a specific article and it's impossible to tell how or when a reader might be influenced by a particular piece of coverage.”
If anything, measuring the success of PR efforts for B2B (business-to-business) companies is even harder. When potential customers have a longer path between hearing about a company and making a purchase, drawing a line between the mention you got in a specific story and a purchase that came through months later is far from easy.
B2B PR measurement is definitely hard, but it is possible. Deciding what B2B PR metrics to focus on is a big part of the battle, but we heard from a number of experts that shared their tips on getting B2B PR measurement right.
The idea of landing a mention in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal probably seems like the ultimate PR win. But for many B2B brands, an emphasis on smaller publications that are more focused on your particular industry and audience may be a smarter PR strategy.
Audience intelligence can help you figure out which publications are worth your time. As Michael Brito explains, “audience data can uncover insights that would be invisible to the naked eye...you may find that media publications like WIRED, MIT Technology Review or the Harvard Business Review resonate higher with your audience than the New York Times.”
As Ruben Gamez, Founder and CEO of Signwell puts it “We'd rather have 100 highly relevant leads visit our page than 100,000 generic visitors.” Relevant leads are more likely to come from strategically targeted PR campaigns.
“If lead generation is a top preference for you, see forgoing mainstream press and focus on getting your company’s story out in targeted vertical publications that protect your customers’ markets.” recommends Shiv Gupta, CEO of Incrementors.
Big publications may seem more exciting on the surface, but more relevant placements are likely to win you more business.
B2B PR measurement has always been hard, but it’s gotten a lot easier as technology has grown more sophisticated in recent years. Mark Weiner, author of PR Technology, Data and Insights says “the best method [for PR measurement] combines technology with talent. Technology enables speed, accessibility and consistency. Humans provide accuracy, context and insight.”
Using technology for B2B PR measurement may seem like a given, but what technology tools should you use? “The tools you use will depend upon the KPIs you're striving for,” suggests Brittney Ihrig, Content & Social Media Marketer at tl;dv. She called out Alexa, SEMRush, Google Analytics, and social media analytics tools as possibilities.
“What worked for us in the past few years is that we invested in using tools that allow us to track our PR metrics such as customer engagement.” says Maya Levi, Marketing Manager at ReturnGO. “So for example, one of the tools that we used to measure customer engagement is a CRM software with a marketing dashboard that is combined with service and product sales.”
Julian Goldie, CEO of Goldie Agency shares “For my own business, I use Hubspot and Google Workspace.” And Karol Nowacki, Acquisition Manager at Tidio says “We monitor our success with tools like Ahrefs and Buzzsumo and report every backlink we got to a dedicated dashboard that visualizes our progress.”
While the specific products companies use vary, across the board experts recommend making use of technology to make the process of B2B PR measurement easier and more effective.
Using data to gain insights into your PR success is useful, but data only tells part of the story. By adding some qualitative information to the quantitative data you collect, you can fill in any gaps in the information.
Tyler Garns, Founder and CEO at Box Out Marketing recommends thought market surveys. By sending “a variety of questions that customers can answer about the brand,” you can hear straight from the audience that matters most how they heard about you, which of those PR mentions they encountered, and how they felt about what they heard.
Data can lead you in the wrong direction if you’re not careful. To make sure your analysis of it is useful and accurate, Miranda Yan, Co-Founder of VinPit suggests that you “ask the right questions...the who and the why is far more critical than the how many when it comes to measuring the ROI of your online efforts.”
She recommends starting by “putting down your marketing goals,” so you know what you want to measure. Then consider questions like “Why are users visiting only these pages and not others? Why are they spending a specific amount of time on the site? On a particular page?”
Asking the right questions is a prerequisite for finding the right answers within the data you collect.
A media mention isn’t always a win—if your business finds itself embroiled in a scandal, you may get plenty of coverage, but none that will help your business. Taking time to review the coverage you get to understand what it’s saying is important.
“We divide reactions into positive, neutral, and negative,” says Taylor Ryan, CEO of Klint. That can help you gauge the overall sentiment of the coverage you’re getting.
Hannah Chudleigh of Cook Medical goes further to look for specific messaging points in the company’s media mentions, to see how well the coverage is reflecting the message the brand wants to get across. “I can search for keywords to make sure messaging points were
included and I can also see sentiment analysis,” she explains.
It can also help you identify the people who most often cover your beat. Abby Ha, Co-founder and Head of Marketing for Cloom says “Analysing coverage is important for gauging the effectiveness of our outreach and building relationships with reporters who can write about Cloom in the future.”
Trying to make sense of all the touch points B2B prospects have with your business before making a purchase can be overwhelming. It becomes more manageable if you work on breaking the process down.
“Break your marketing-to-sales pipeline in steps that are clear and easy to track,” recommends SEO link building specialist Roberto Popolizio. Isolating individual steps your audience takes on the path to a conversion helps you better identify the source of your leads. It can help you make more sense of the data you have and figure out how to connect it to sales.
A lot of PR is about driving awareness. Making potential customers aware of your business is a necessary first step to gaining a sale, but awareness is only useful up to a point. You need the right people to gain that awareness and continue to take additional steps to engage with your business after learning about you.
“An increase in traffic, organic leads, ranking, and social profile engagement can indicate that your brand reached people. However, if that still does not lead to an increase in conversions, then that’s where you have to adjust either your sales funnel, landing pages, or strengthen your reputation,” says Solomon Thimothy, Co-Founder of Clickx.
One of the most effective ways to figure out which of your conversions link back to a specific PR win is by asking your customers directly. “Pay attention to new customers and ask them how they found [you],” suggests Maxim Levichev, Marketing Manager at Fluix.
It’s a simple concept that can go a long way toward helping you understand which of your PR efforts are bringing customers your way.
Measurement matters, but it’s also possible to overemphasize what you can learn from analytics. Brittney Ihrig urges the reminder that “it is really important to not think
of PR as demand generation.”
“It is an important vehicle that can improve the impact and performance of other demand generation tools,” she explains. A lot of the impact of PR success won’t show up in data. Someone that learns about you from a media mention may not take action that day, but could have a more positive view of your brand the next time they encounter an ad or hear someone mention your products.
“Brand recognition and brand awareness can really help subsequent paid social and other marketing campaigns and even conversion and retention of existing customers or leads,” Ihrig points out.
Data can quickly become overwhelming. While all those tech tools are great for helping you collect metrics you previously couldn’t, they can also result in having more than you know what to do with. Bram Jansen, Chief Editor of vpnAlert urges marketers to “keep it simple!”
“An effective measuring approach does not include tracking and analyzing every available data point,” he explains. “Concentrate on a limited number of simple measures that you can comprehend and apply straight away.”
Taking a strategic approach to how you measure your B2B PR efforts can help you better gauge which of your campaigns are paying off in the results that matter most to you. Make sure you consider the main goals you want to achieve upfront, and focus your PR work on the audiences and outcomes that are your main priority.