Public relations professionals are used to playing in the background. We ghost write for our executive team. We listen silently on briefings for which we researched, booked and provided prepped spokespeople. We give a voice to our clients and organizations without being the face. In short, we’re used to providing value without being externally recognized for it. But in today’s tech-fueled communications ecosystem, a lack of recognition shouldn’t be an internal issue: we now have the tools to measure and report on how we’re moving the needle by generating engagement with our PR efforts.
In today’s digital world, it’s important for PR professionals to find the connection between data and the art of communications. The link between the two helps us find the right message for the right people on the right channel – and this knowledge gives us the best shot at engaging them. Commentary on influential industry blogs, social mentions that include a link to earned media placement, or lively discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups are more meaningful KPIs than vanity metrics such as followers or likes: the former measures achievement in the form of engagement, and that engagement gives us impressions as the by-product. The latter is simply an indicator of opportunity.
Better tools make better PR professionals
We PR professionals want to be a step ahead. Using data to get ahead of the curve and to find the influencer who’s going to touch a target audience allows us to spend more time crafting and refining messaging, and less time blasting out broadcasts to see what sticks. By using tools that allow us to think about the influencers, their audience and their channel in tandem, and by looking at the intersection between them – PR pros can unlock a wealth of useful insights into how to engage influencers while providing a more accurate measure of engagement.
In order to find and understand those influencers, we must first and foremost track conversations: knowing what influencers are talking about helps us to understand both what message will resonate and what channel to use. If our influencer is a journalist, for example, we must know the journalist’s beat, Twitter handle and other social and content streams – but monitoring all of that across a wide community of influencers is simply too much data for a human to sort through.
Luckily, in the absence of superhuman abilities, we have access to sophisticated PR tech tools that gather vast amounts of data from a variety of channels. This allows us to figure out the right message for the right person that starts a conversation to amplify our message. Sophisticated communications monitoring technologies, such as Meltwater News and Meltwater Buzz, sift through mass amounts of data (“Big Data”) to deliver the insights that are relevant to us: media contact information tailored to our message and geography, real-time traditional media monitoring and social media monitoring.
Stronger Engagement Should Yield Measurable Results
By listening to the conversations out there with a Big Data listening tool, we PR professionals can qualify our pitching and stories to stand more of a chance to spur engagement. Out of that engagement – whether it’s media pickup or a social share – we get the impressions that typically used to be a core KPI. The latter, while an excellent by-product of engagement, is the kind of metric that measures community size and opportunity, and as such aren’t actionable as a sign of a clear connection with a target audience.
Actionable metrics, on the other hand, are a clearer indication of success. They should truly measure engagement, and a good Big Data tool will both guide and measure engagement. PR professionals should look for a tool that allows for measurement of share of voice, conversations by geography, sentiment and more. These actionable metrics allow us to circle back to our messaging program, analyze what’s working, and refine – lather, rinse, repeat. This is the cycle of a modern, data-driven communications program.
With an arsenal of quantified results, we PR professionals can be confident in the effectiveness of our communications programs. These results can and should be shared with the C-suite to solidify PR’s place at the proverbial table. With that in mind, we have the data to elevate recognition of PR activities as a business instrument that moves the needle.
The writer is Riana Dadlani, corporate communications specialist at Meltwater.
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