The first step to demand creation often requires investing in hard-to-measure marketing tactics. Unlike bottom-of-funnel metrics, e.g. customer acquisition, knowing how well top-of-funnel activities work requires relying on metrics that I’ve never found very satisfying. They include aided or unaided awareness, ad recall, and reach and frequency.
Public relations, or PR, falls in this hard-to-measure category. In a world in which CEOs expect more measurability from all their marketing, what should you do if you find yourself in charge of building media buzz for your company, brand, product or service?
I use a methodology to measure the effectiveness of PR that works for marketers who seek to boost demand creation through favorable press. It does not attempt to link customer acquisition directly to PR; though sometimes that is possible, it’s an ambitious goal for any top-of-funnel activity. Instead, this technique is designed to help marketers quantify the difference between effective PR and coverage that isn’t likely to attract potential new customers.
Develop your scoring methodology
Quantifying media coverage requires that you assign a value to its underlying elements. You may think of others, but here are the attributes that matter to me:
Did the coverage happen in a tier one media outlet? You could assign a 3 to the top tier, 2 to second tier, and 1 to the third tier. I treat these as multipliers.
Is the coverage positive, negative or neutral? I treat these as multipliers, too: positive stories get a +1, negative a -1, and neutral 0.5 based on the theory that some coverage is better than none at all.
The following all are additive:
Did it include an executive quote?
Did it include a company or product logo, image or screenshot?
Did the writer capture any of the main messages you prioritized for your products or services?
Putting it all together, here’s a formula that captures the impact of these components:
MEDIA VALUE = TONE x OUTLET TIER x (EXEC. QUOTE + IMAGERY + MAIN MESSAGE INCLUSION)
Getting a favorable story in re/code (tier 1) that included a screenshot but didn’t capture the main message or an executive quote generates the following score:
1 x 3 x (0 + 1 + 0) = 3
Note that it’s possible for this score to turn negative if the coverage itself is negative, and a zero is possible if the journalist didn’t capture a main message, quote or image. I’d argue that this sort of coverage has no value, so a zero fits.
Putting your scoring approach to work
Segment your target media. Emphasize those outlets that your customers use, and prioritize those with the largest audiences. If you don’t have that data, ask the publication to provide it. VentureBeat, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, and re/code all belong in tier one for tech coverage.
Build relationships with writers at the top tier of publications. Before you can pitch a story, you’ll want to know which writers are most likely to respond. Some writers take more of an interest in specific social platforms, while others are drawn more to start-up and technology company culture.
Prepare a master calendar that includes your company’s critical milestones, e.g. major product or service updates or releases. This will tell you when you’ll want coverage to appear. Beware: there are times of year that make getting coverage exceedingly difficult. For example, writers tend to focus on holiday trends from late November through the end of the year. Then, they have to cover CES in early January and Mobile World Congress in March. Trying to get media exposure during these periods is an uphill climb. Also, keep in mind that some writers may need 60-90 advance notice, especially if they work in print.
Develop a set of main messages you want to communicate with each product or service update. What would you want a journalist to write about your company, product or service? The idea here isn’t to bombard the media with a high volume of messages in the hopes that at least one sticks, but rather to pick the one or two that are most important and emphasize those.
Determine a baseline score: applying this score methodology, what score did your media coverage get over the last 6-12 months?
Set a target for improvement relative to the baseline and then start running. You may not need an agency to generate coverage, but if you do, make sure the agency uses your approach. Many agencies I’ve used in the past tend to report whenever stories appear and how many readers may have seen it, but that doesn’t really tell you much.
I’ve found that scoring PR and setting targets for improvement makes the work strategic and easier to position to metrics-driven company leadership. Once you’ve tried it, I predict you’ll realize that un-scored PR efforts feel like making noise.