Five simple steps to improve your PR measurement tools

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“If you have been charging a ‘mood board agency’ £25,000 for lies then I am sorry.[1]

Targeting the right people, and measuring response has always been a challenge. Data now gives marketing managers the opportunity to be much more precise, finding out who is buying, in response to what channel.

Even a simple Adwords campaign set up with the right campaign targets (such as a sign up page or bespoke telephone number) can provide data which is actually thrilling to read (if you are a number nerd like me or concerned about your bottom line, like most marketers and business owners.) It’s thrilling because it’s just so damn tangible, its lovely.

Speaking at the Digital Journeys conference in Brighton last week, Nestlé UK’s digital lead, Gawain Owen, gave a great case study of the power of programmatic online advertising. You can read Brand Republic’s report online, but basically by letting the computer select the advertising, Nestle found that a particular hand cream brand sold out. There’s a similar success story in the same article about Tesco’s Florence & Fred brand.

The reason I’m highlighting this today is that actually at the heart of this story is a golden nugget about PR. Each product sold out because the online advertising was specifically linked to an article in the news – ie editorial secured through PR activity. “Owen himself spotted an article on the Daily Mail one morning about its hand cream brand Cetaphil.”  

The programmatic advertising wouldn’t have worked if the product hadn’t been mentioned in the Daily Mail in first place, and Owen was then able to initiate the ad campaign from there. This is a great example of how and why your marketing and communication activity needs to be more closely aligned than ever before, and why creative PR should be at the heart of it.

But few marketing managers and business owners will have a marketing budget to match Nestle or Tesco, so what can you do to make the most of your spend, and measure what’s working for you?

Five simple steps to take on your PR journey to improving your PR measurement tools. (OK it was a tenuous connection…)

  1. Google analytics monthly summary – set up a short summary table and take key metrics every month. Do you know which pages of your website people are looking at most? Could you improve on them?
  1. Cross reference – look at what got the best results, for example if you see a spike in incoming traffic from twitter, explore why it worked best. How can you do more of that?
  1. Web site design – have you got the right pages in place to capture results and measure quality? For example do you even give people something they could sign up to or get involved with?
  1. Challenge the data – if your agency is giving you data you don’t understand, challenge them to show you what is working, because it should be transparent and obvious.
  1. Check your content – when you’re looking at your monthly Google analytics summary, at the same time ask the question –  what have you put out that month? Check new content, new adverts, what are you doing to drive people to your brand or website – is PR at the heart of your marketing activity?


[1] Brand Republic 16 July 2015, Gawain Owen, Nestle Digital Lead

50% of digital ads are never seen by a human

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50% of humans don’t set up proper systems to measure what is working.

The headline fact is true, it’s from Google and was reported in AdAge. The second fact is made up, by me. I might put the second figure as high 75 – 80% actually.

Half wasted

John Wanamaker, a pioneer of marketing in the 1890’s, said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” (Not made up, see Wikipedia.) What’s changed in 125 years? The only difference is that now Google is able to make more accurate physical measurements.

“With the advancement of new technologies we now know that many display ads that are served never actually have the opportunity to be seen by a user,” Sanaz Ahari, Google group product manager, said in a blog post. He continues: “An ad served doesn’t necessarily equal an ad viewed,” something Mr Wanamaker could have said in the 19th century.

The digital ads which aren’t seen are those which appear outside the viewable area of a browser window by the way, or are only seen by bots.

Best positions

In the “old days” when I worked at The Guardian we valued the best positions, like ‘right hand facing matter’ or ‘front page solus.’ In fact the best positions in the print version of the paper still have a premium value.  And see what a fuss was made last month about Apple, allegedly, only wanting to be next to positive stories in the newspaper. That’s another marketing chestnut as old as time too…

I remember once, in my earlier days at GMG, a three quarter page advert was booked into The Guardian for a new corporate client, and we all celebrated the prestigious new account. When the paper was published the advert happened to appear next to an article which said “So and so [CEO of new client advertiser] behaves like scared rabbit”. Oh the sh** which hit the fan that day!

So none of these marketing or publishing issues are new, they just appear in different formats.

How to measure effectiveness

Our challenge is to find new ways to address the perennial question of how to measure the effectiveness of PR and marketing campaigns. What channel is working best, which adverts are people responding to?

The reason many clients don’t have a good measuring system in place is that it’s not easy, at least not in the B2B world. Asking a customer ‘How did you hear of us?’ can be awkward and annoying. Is it worth aggravating and possibly loosing a customer for this information, if you enquire again when your prospect says they can’t remember?

Some of our clients link measurement to sales targets, so if the information relating to “how did you hear about our service” is left blank then the bonus isn’t paid. Worth considering if you are making a significant investment in your marketing and PR activity.

Ideal best practice

What would our ideal best practice list be, for measuring the effectiveness of a PR campaign? Well obviously it depends on the objectives of your campaign. Media relations and reputational-based PR campaigns can take months to deliver results and that is a subject worthy of a whole new blog post.

But if your PR agency is handling a much broader B2B campaign which includes a healthy dose of digital marketing such as Adwords plus some traditional advertising, and is aiming to increase incoming enquiries, a basic three step plan could be :

  1. Audit the volume of current incoming enquiries, setting the measurement terms for emails, telephone calls and face to face contacts.
  1. Ensure staff know that this information will be measured once a month and that they must ask “How did you find out about us/ our service” for any new prospect or enquiry.
  1. Collect data from staff once a month, religiously.

It can be surprisingly difficult to winkle this information from people, and this is where an agency can help. The agency can make the monthly call to gather the data, if you make it part of their monthly reporting requirement, and have briefed your staff beforehand. The use of a third party can help to make it less personal and more professional.

Google analytics

Digital metrics are more easily accessible and should also be monitored once a month too:

  • Google analytics:
  • – session duration
  • – pages per session
  • – bounce rate
  • – number of sessions compared with users
  • Facebook likes
  • Twitter shares and reach
  • Pinterest/Instagram posts [or other social media channel used]
  • LinkedIn likes and comments

More than this amount and you might be tying yourself up in knots.

This should go some way to making the outcome of your spend much more tangible, something we believe in very passionately here at Twelve.

So that just leaves the thorny question of making your digital adverts more visible. Google has produced a great infograph ‘Five Ways to Increase Your Visibility.’

I’ve reproduced it with this blog post and the key points are summarised below:

  1. Check the publishers on your campaign list

A small number of publishers are serving most of the non-viewable impressions; 56.1% of all impressions are not seen, but the average publisher viewability is 50.2%.

  1. Pick your position well

The most viewable position is right above the fold, not at the top of the page.

  1. Pay attention to ad shape and size

The most viewable ad sizes are vertical units. Not a surprise, since they stay on screen longer as users move around a page.

  1. Above the fold does not mean always viewable

Page position isn’t always the best indicator of viewability.

Not all above-the-fold impressions are viewable, while many below-the-fold impressions are.

  1. Viewability varies across industries

While it ranges across content verticals, or industries, content that holds a user’s attention has the highest viewability.

My final note in this blog post is a salutary reminder of what digital visibility means:

A display ad is considered viewable when:

50% of an ad’s pixels are in view on the screen for a minimum of one second, as defined by the Media Rating Council.

Viewability rate:

Percentage of ads determined viewable out of the total number of ads measured.