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PR measurement on a limited budget

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A large budget makes it easier to obtain substantial media exposure and measure the results of PR and marketing. But most organizations don’t have millions (or even thousands) to spend on media measurement. Most nonprofit organizations, start-ups and small businesses generally have limited resources for PR and marketing and especially for PR measurement. Even many large organizations rely on shoestring budgets for media monitoring and measurement.

The following approaches can help organizations with limited funds affordably measure their PR and marketing.

Pick the Right Goals and Metrics

Set goals that are easy to measure. Specific goals can be measured more easily. Goals could cover lead generation, increased sales, or positive media mentions in certain publications.

Measure against goals. To find meaningful results, make sure PR goals link to business objectives and can be measured regularly. “It is important to set and meet your quantifiable press-coverage goals every quarter, to ensure you stay focused on creating great content, raising awareness for your company, and getting return on investment from your PR efforts,” advises Kathie Green, director of marketing at TapSense in Entrepreneur.

Prune metrics. Review your PR metrics periodically to eliminate outdated and unneeded metrics. Many PR teams tend to track and analyze more metrics than they need. Many are obsolete or unhelpful and consume precious time and energy. Focusing on just a handful of key meaningful metrics can bring clarity to PR measurement – and can make PR’s job easier. PR teams ideally re-evaluate metrics once a year. Appointment of a new CEO or VP, Communications offers an opportune time for re-examination,

Look beyond traditional media metrics to find ways to meaningfully and affordably measure PR, recommends Mara Conklin, founder and president of Clarus Communications. For example, one company reported that their sales reps noticed that the sales cycle started shortening as the PR program gained traction. That’s because sales reps could spend less time educating prospects about their company.

“Because good PR positively impacts attitude and perception, it’s okay to look for ‘soft’ measurements that really contribute to the company, Conklin writes.

Use data you already have. If one goal is increased traffic to the corporate web page, examine web analytics for long-term web traffic trends, such as the number of returning visitors, time on page, and the most popular pages and other information. Social media networks typically report engagement levels, the number of followers, and other metrics.

Savvy PR pros use those tools to their full advantage but keep in mind the limits of Google Analytics and native social media analytics. Google Analytics offers limited worth as a measurement tool for PR since it analyzes website traffic and increasing website traffic is not the principal goal of PR. Also, Google Alerts is not reliable as a media monitoring tool. Social media platforms generally lack robust analytics, and some native analytics seem designed to encourage additional use of the platform rather than to offer useful data.

Seek a Cost-Effective Media Monitoring Service

Ask for customized packages. A media monitoring and measurement service that can tailor its package to your specific needs and requests will offer a more cost-effective solution. It’s crucial to complete thorough research before selecting a media monitoring vendor and request a free-trial to test its capability. Avoid long-term contracts that can leave you stuck with an undesirable partner and below-average product.

Leverage a concise RFP. Write up a concise RFP for your media monitoring and measurement needs and ask each vendor to provide you with line-item pricing. You might even consider supplying each vendor with a pricing spreadsheet to complete. Asking for line-item pricing helps assure that you are not paying for services you don’t want or need. It also allows you to make better price comparisons.

Unbundle PR services. Bundling multiple PR requirements such as media database, news release distribution, media monitoring and media measurement, and executive newsletter production into one RFP from one vendor is usually NOT the most effective or cost-efficient way to purchase PR services. Unbundling services results in both more affordable services and better quality of each service. No one vendor possesses the best of all the PR services or the best price for each service.

Invest in one tool. Investing in a single media measurement tool can save time and resources in the long run. “While no tool is perfect, tools today leverage web crawling technology that scrapes the internet for comprehensive media tracking of online news and certain social channels,” says Marni Zapakin, vice president at Ketchum Analytics. “You can integrate external data to have everything in one, easy-to-use dashboard.”

Bottom Line: Organizations can now measure their PR and marketing efforts without spending huge sums. Carefully selecting metrics and partnering with the right media monitoring tool enables PR and marketing to accurately measure their campaigns at a reasonable cost.

This post was first published on Aug. 15, 2017, and updated on Nov. 9, 2020.

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