Interestingly we have recently seen an upswing in the number of clients trying to measure the value of tactical PR activities using qualitative indices, such as the # of hits on a press release issued, or # of visits to a website from an article, or the # of openings of a newsletter. So once again we have found ourselves having to defend the value of tactical PR activities with clients who are using social media and marketing platform measurement techniques to define PR success. It appears in many ways we are returning to the time a few years ago when the hype surrounding social media pushed many B2B marketers to try and replicate rules around hits, website visitors and clicks-throughs to judge how much ROI their PR programs were delivering.
This is, however, a retrograde step, because it completely ignores the true purpose of PR, and the way it should be measured. One example is with Twitter, many clients in B2B still judge Twitter success in terms of ‘large numbers’, whether that is the number of followers, or retweets. Whereas, in point of fact, in B2B, it is the quality, not quantity, of followers which should define success (i.e. better to have ten actual B2B buyers as followers, than 5, 000 students, social media junkies, employees or hangers-on).
The same is true about B2B PR, each small tactical activity may in itself not yield specific ROI stats, as measured against social media success criteria, but in the sum of its parts, a PR program will help support and push awareness of a business beyond the confines of its owned content and commercial platforms. It also provides content that is often third party based, that provides valuable validation content and messaging for social media reposting and repurposing.
To help explain this further, it is widely accepted that most B2B buyers don’t close deals online. According to some estimates, prospects making B2B purchasing decisions have already completed 70% of their research by the time they first contact a company to ask questions, download a data sheet, or request technical specs, or in other words ‘come onto the radar’.
So perhaps it’s time for B2B marketers to understand they shouldn’t measure PR on social media and e-marketing criteria, because these only represent the tip of the iceberg. Below the waters lie the much harder to quantify PR activities that first get a company onto the radar of a potential prospect, and which help lead them to approach a vendor to consider purchasing its products or services.