A while back, I had a conversation with a client about the work we were doing for them, and I heard a question that genuinely blew my mind.
To put this in context, we had grown this client from an annual revenue of $1.2 million to nearly $3 million in just about one year on a budget of well under the industry average for that kind of growth. Today, just one year after that, we’ve grown the company to over $6 million dollars on that same budget.
So what was the mind-blowing question they asked me?
“How do we know this is really working?”
And that’s when I realized there’s often a huge disconnect between public relations firms and the clients we serve. Part of that is because clients don’t know what goes into public relations, part is because PR firms often don’t explain what’s going on and the impact it has on the client, and part is because they don’t guide the client on how to best leverage the publicity they’ve earned. That leads to clients being unable to recognize the performance of their public relations efforts.
This is predictable because public relations is not a one-for-one correlation. It’s almost impossible to directly measure new customers that are being driven by publicity in the same way you might track new customers from Facebook ads. But success can, in fact, be measured holistically by monitoring four critical KPIs.
In some ways, business is not a popularity contest, but in other ways, it is. How consumers feel about your brand has a huge impact on whether they trust your company enough to buy from you over your competitors, how often they buy and how large their purchases are, and whether they recommend your company to others.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to measure brand sentiment. In fact, there are several ways to do so.
The first is to look at what we call branded search volume in your website analytics, which is when people specifically search for your company and product names. This will show up in your website analytics. (Usually Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.) The more people search for your brand, the better.
But not everyone who searches for your brand terms will end up on your website, so you can also look at data from Google Trends, which provides additional data on search activity, whether it results in traffic to your site or not. It’s important to note that this data is far from perfect. For example, if I enter the client I mentioned in the beginning of this article into Google Trends, it shows about 100 searches per month. But I know the real search volume is significantly higher because we see thousands of brand searches just to the company’s website alone. So treat this as a relative, rather than an absolute data point.
And finally, you can set up Google News Alerts, which constantly scans the internet looking for any mention of a particular word or phrase. This will give you an instant notification whenever your brand is mentioned online and helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of how your brand is perceived. This is also a great way to stay ahead of unhappy customers so you can fix problems before they cause damage to your brand.
Trust plays a huge role in how long it takes to close a sale—the more a customer trusts your brand, the more quickly they will make a buying decision.
Your sales team should already be tracking how long it takes, from initial contact to closed sale, because this is important data to improve your sales process. But this data can also give you valuable insight into the effectiveness of your public relations efforts.
If you see a reduction in the length of time it takes to close a sale, that’s a good indication that your PR efforts are particularly effective.
When people are considering buying from a company they’re uncertain about, they will typically move cautiously. That means they will buy a smaller amount, typically the minimum, of whatever it is that you sell. This is completely understandable, after all, it’s wise to minimize risk whenever possible.
If you’re tracking your average purchase size—and you should because it’s another valuable metric to improve your sales team’s performance—then you can also use it to help evaluate the effectiveness of your public relations efforts.
The idea here is that the more consumers trust your brand, the more likely they will be comfortable making larger purchases. Now it’s important to point out that this isn’t always the case. Depending on how you have your products or services structured, there may be a narrow range of options for a customer depending on their circumstances.
An increase in the average purchase size can be a sign that your PR efforts are effective.
The Net Promoter Score, or NPS, measures the customer experience and can be an accurate predictor of future business growth.
You can calculate your NPS by asking, on a scale from 0-10, how likely is it that a customer would recommend your brand to a friend or colleague?
Respondents are then grouped as follows:
- Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer to others, fueling growth.
- Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
- Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.
You can then calculate the Net Promoter Score, which can range from a low of -100 if every customer is a Detractor, to a high of 100 if every customer is a Promoter, but most brands will not rank on the extreme ends.
You can use this score, or more specifically, the movement in this score, as another way to gauge the effectiveness of your public relations efforts. If your PR efforts keep your brand at the top of customers’ minds in a positive light, your Net Promoter Score will tend to improve. This is because when they feel a stronger sense of connection, they tend to have a more favorable view of your brand and will even be more willing to forgive mistakes.