Marketing and PR is all about trust. It’s about building relationships with your target audience, growing your brand’s reputation and supporting sustainable business growth. But how can you measure if your communications activities are really working for your business?
Before setting out on your communications journey, think about what it is you’re looking to achieve. Do you want to increase social engagement? Lift website traffic? Grow your online enquires? Use these goals to set SMART objectives and benchmark your current position, so you have something to compare your results against.
Depending what your objectives are, you will need to make use of a range of tools to evaluate your activity successfully. For example, you may want to think about setting up goal tracking on Google Analytics, ensuring your social media analytics are enabled or implementing tags on your CRM system.
By allowing yourself to see what success looks like, you can see what’s working and what’s not. If you fall short of your goals, you’ll have all the information you need to adjust your campaigns and activity to ensure it’s more effective in the future.
Levels of evaluation
When you’ve got your objectives, think about how you’re going to measure success. There are three key stages to PR and communications evaluation: outputs, outtakes and outcomes.
Outputs: these tell the story of what was produced – eg the number of social media posts, pieces of coverage or new contacts on your CRM. Alone, outputs won’t answer the ‘so what?’ question, but they can ‘set the scene’ for more in-depth evaluation of outtakes, outcomes and impact.
Outtakes: these look at how your audience actually perceived the message, measuring retention, comprehension, awareness and reception. This gives you more information as to the effect of the campaign’s outputs and can go further towards showing how objectives have been met.
Outcomes: outcomes are a more sophisticated evaluation stage, measuring the impact of your activities on your audiences behaviours, attitudes and opinions. This stage of evaluation will directly answer the ‘so what?’ – letting you know what your communications activity truly means in the context of your aims and objectives.
Tools and techniques
There are a whole range of tools and techniques which will help you to evaluate the success of your PR and communications activity, here are some:
Google Analytics is the ultimate measuring tool for PR – and it’s free! There are also plenty of free online tutorials to help you to make the most out of this.
Your website is your ‘centre of gravity’ for all of your communications. Before you put any content out there, ensure Google Analytics is set up correctly, as it cannot track retrospectively.
One key dial to look out for, to see where your website traffic is coming from, is ‘acquisition’. Here, you can see the exact sources of your traffic. This can be particularly useful if you’re boosting your social media activity, as it can show direct referrals from your social media pages to your website. You can also compare the data year on year to see how your activity has moved on over time.
Different social media platforms will have different in-built analytics. Again, as with Google Analytics, these need to be set up before you want to track any activity or engagement, however they’re very simple to activate. Simply visit your page settings and enable analytics on Twitter and LinkedIn, or Insights on Instagram and Facebook.
These tools can help you to track how successful your content is, by highlighting engagement statistics (likes, shares, comments), followers over time and website referrals (when someone visits your website directly from your page). Much like Google Analytics, these can be compared over periods of time to show how things are progressing.
If you’re looking to directly link your marketing activities to sales (or leads), ensuring you’re using your CRM system to the full is key.
Use tags to track where contacts came from, eg was it through social media? Did they read about you? Or is it a word of mouth referral? The more you understand about where your audience are coming from, the more you can focus your efforts.
Other communications you can tag and measure in your CRM system include downloads of white papers or PDF guides, newsletter sign ups and webinar or event attendees. The more you record, the easier it is to see where a sale comes from when it happens.