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5 Digital Metrics/Tools That PR Pros Need to Know

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Measurement: it is, as our own Shawn Paul Wood put it in yesterday’s “Top 5 PR Industry Debate Topics” post, the “pachyderm in the room.”

So what’s the skinny on new measurement tools, and which numbers should we focus on? For starters, Cision has some new offerings it would like to share with you.

We spoke to Heidi Sullivan, SVP of digital content at Cision, to learn more about the general state of data in PR and the tools and metrics that you need to use.

What’s the biggest challenge facing PR pros pressured to deliver in terms of data for clients?

Social media, smart phones, digital television and big data in general have led to fractured audiences and the end of “news as an event.”

We no longer pick up the paper to read on the train in the morning nor say, “Honey, leave the dishes, it’s time for the 9PM news.” We receive aggregated news, in real-time, customized to us, through myriad sources and formats.

PR people now have the challenge to figure out how to reach their audiences without a single silver bullet. Normalizing the results of their efforts and measuring how they actually moved the needle is a bigger challenge than it ever has been.

From a client perspective, PR frequently looks like a cost center instead of a profit center, which is typically why marketing and PR budgets tend to be cut first.

What are some metrics/related tools PR pros might not know about?

  1. Cision’s Digital Reach. Cision provides a proprietary unique visitors per month (UVPM) figure derived from social shares across platforms. The formula is based on a statistical model that we’ve developed which expresses the relationship between a site’s unique visitors per month and its social share counts. Using this metric helps give PR pros specific visitor numbers that truly reflect the way most people experience the Web.
  2. Moz’s Domain Authority. How will a particular site rank in Google’s search results? Taking Digital Reach a step further, SEO is an important consideration for all PR pros and Moz.com has created a formula to help you measure exactly how likely a site is to rank at the top of results in their Domain Authority tool.
  3. Google Authorship and Google Analytics. This concerns people instead of sites. If you blog on behalf of your brand or your client, make sure your Google+ page is linked to Google Authorship – you will have more SEO juice simply for telling Google who you are as an author. Additionally, Google Analytics can be your BFF whether you are talking about owned media or earned media. Did a media mention create a spike in traffic to your site? Which page? What messages were stickiest?
  4. New Engine Optimization (NEO). We’ve all focused on SEO, and then Social Media Optimization (SMO), but now AirPR has trademarked and introduced us to NEO, describing the insights on how soundbytes and key messages are being embraced by media and influencers.
  5. Lead Generation and Lead Scoring. Not every PR campaign can be directly linked back to sales, but the more PR pros can work with marketing to begin identifying audiences that identified a brand (through Google Analytics) and then eventually led to a lead (or even better, a qualified or hot lead) using marketing tools like Eloqua or Marketo, the more PR will begin to truly prove ROI.

How can these metrics/tools feed directly into ROI for clients?

Measurement should begin before a campaign ever starts.

Creating objectives from the onset is key to successful ROI measurement. What are the goals of this campaign: to drive sales or website traffic? To improve brand awareness or reputation? To build stronger relationships with your current customers? Once those goals are identified, a PR pro can more accurately identify which tools and metrics noted above will best measure a campaign’s success.

What’s wrong with the current way we measure unique visitors and the value they deliver?

Unique Visitors per Month is the number of individual people who visit a site in a given month. The reality is, only the site’s publisher can determine exactly how many people visit a site in a month, and publishers are under no obligation to share data from their server-side analytics tools. So, nearly all providers of UVPM data make estimates based on some type of sample. This sample data can take a number of forms, including a recruited group of users who get paid to have their web history monitored, anonymized data from ISPs, or data from browser toolbars or advertiser cookies.

Why does Cision use the Digital Reach method to calculate Unique Visitors per Month figures?

In the case of Digital Reach, sample data relies on sharing activity across social media. The concept of “reach” in media measurement is increasingly intertwined with online sharing activity.

Social activity such as tweets and Facebook status updates drives a growing portion of web users to the content they choose to look at every day. Cision’s proprietary Digital Reach formula looks at a sample of sites and examines the relationship between each site’s UVPM and corresponding social media share counts. From that sample, a statistical model is developed that mathematically expresses the relationship between a site’s UVPM and its social media share counts.

Can “stickiness” or “shareability” truly be quantified? (For the record, we are skeptical.)

Virality is never guaranteed, and I am skeptical of anyone who promises they can “make it viral.” However, we can use predictive analytics to identify the content that is beginning to take off early on and help to influence virality for that content.

Jay Baer of Convince & Convert says, “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” When you see a piece of content reach a certain threshold of popularity, use native advertising and other strategies to throw gas on the fire. This way, you’re not creating “viral content” but identifying the content that is already resonating with an audience and giving it a little extra juice.

What does this product give us that we didn’t have before?

Instead of focusing on a small panel of users, Digital Reach measures links that have been shared across the entire social web, thus enabling us to provide a comprehensive global figure. Additionally, our methodology allows us to provide reach figures for sub-sites, which are often not available through other UVPM providers. As a larger trend, Digital Reach reflects the way users are actually viewing and sharing content on the web.

How do  UVPM/share stats translate to “success?”

UVPMs and shares are not the be all and end all of successful measurement, but they are a great benchmark in both planning and measurement for PR pros. Which sites within a particular topic are most popular with the community? How visible was my brand this quarter compared with last quarter? These are the types of metrics that Digital Reach can help provide, all in one concise output.

Do we agree? How familiar are we with the data and tools Sullivan described?

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