Updated: May 3, 2019
How do you measure success? PR is the secret sauce for companies that want to create lasting impact, and this is how we recommend doing it.
We’re a PR firm, so we’re biased here. I also truly believe that PR is the most effective tool in a marketing arsenal, hence why I started an agency dedicated to solely that activity alone.
In fact, PR is the most logical function for an already swamped marketing team to outsource so that they can solely focus on paid campaigns and internal properties like website and social media. Marketing, in terms of paid media (advertising,) owned media (web, email, social, blog, etc.) and earned media (public relations,) is easier to measure in some areas and harder to measure in others.
PR Softwares: When even the Legacy Brands Struggle to Measure Impact Properly
It’s true! Even if you have a ton of money, it turns out that the big dogs in B2B PR software still cannot guarantee perfect attribution. That is, if someone sees your amazing write up in the New York Times and finds your website NOT through a direct link — well, at best we can make assumptions on the impact of the article.
Fortunately we use a a variety of new and upcoming softwares that (in our humble opinion,) beat out the legacy softwares that are clunky, outdated, and far too expensive for what they can do. This is a streamlined viewpoint of our day-to-day softwares that garner us the best results as an agency for our clients:
Best for Account/Journalist/Editor Management: Airtable
I like to use Airtable for it’s sheer flexibility. Imagine Microsoft Excel if it were on the cloud and had more fun colors and modern templates. It’s also fantastic for teams since it’s free to start using, (check out our link here to get yourself started with a $10 credit.)
Specifically, Airtable’s templates are stellar. They have a wide array of database templates to choose from, for a variety of industries and functions, including finance, marketing, event planning, product launching, user research, content editorial calendars, employee management, venture capital, and real estate.
We like to use Airtable to build out custom Shared Content Management Systems (Shared CMS) for each client account we have, with key objectives in mind: what high value/target media to reach, what current messaging campaigns we’re working on, what is being said about our competitors, and more. Airtable pricing is tiered at $0, $10, or $20 per month, per user, and enterprise options for larger needs.
Best for Journalist/Editor/Outlet Outreach: Muck Rack
Muck Rack is the definitive modern digital phone book for journalist and editor contacts. Many use the platform themselves to stay informed. At $499 per user per month, it’s much more affordable than the legacy PR software options out there (some which cost $10,000 a year and up.)
And here’s some PR firm insider info: the legacy platforms aren’t accurate 100% of the time. If I’m paying $10,000 a year for software, I personally hold the expectation that it works. MuckRack, while mostly accurate, has a function in place where users can report if a journalist/editor has changed titles, outlets, or is no longer a journalist. It’s a community effort that keeps the software at its best.
Other nice features Muck Rack includes are the ability to search by a keyword phrase or topic, and to limit the search geographically. You can look up articles, journalists, or outlets themselves when searching with a keyword. Additionally, you can pull together media lists and be able to reach them via the Muck Rack platform, (they have a great client relationship system in place as well.)
Also be sure to check out Who Shared My Link? which shows which journalists, editors, bloggers etc. shared your news via their twitter accounts. Side note: Twitter messages are also a secret weapon when trying to reach a journalist with a news tip.
Need a decent free version? Try ANewsTip. It allows you to find journalists for free, but be forewarned that the data is not always up to date.
Best for Estimating Impact: CoverageBook
Consistently, attribution remains the number one problem for PR professionals. Frankly, I don’t know if it’s something that can ever be solved. If someone reads your article in the paper, opens their phone, opens a new tab, and searches for your company, it would take a very adept touchpoint flow to measure all the interactions that lead to your website.
That being said, CoverageBook does a pretty stellar job at estimating how many people have viewed your coverage. At $99 a month for small teams to start, it’s a cost effective way to assume earned media impact.
Compiling all of your data, it measures things like total readership, article readership, social media shares, and “domain authority,” a metric that dictates the prestige of the outlet who posted the story. It also lets you know if the story included a link back to your company or not. CoverageBook relies on a key integration with SimilarWeb to assess website statistics and data, giving you insight into which outlets are more worth your time than others.
It’s called CoverageBook because you build an online portfolio, (a book of coverage if you will,) with all the pieces of your past coverage. CoverageBook then quantifies and compiles the data giving you a birds-eye-view into your media efforts and how much they’ve been received by an outlet’s audience.
Best for Client/Competitor Mentions: Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a no brainer for a publicist, but anyone can take advantage of new information being pulled from the web and put into your mailbox whenever you want. You can set alerts for your company name, or maybe your clients, or the top keywords in your industry. Then you can elect to get a report mailed to you every day, every week, or as it happens (when the news is published.)
We setup Google Alerts on our client’s names, their industries, and their competitors to both know when news is published about them, and also to get a weekly roundup on what’s going on in the industry. We then have a human pull out relevant data and log it into Airtable for easy management.
Best for Keeping Tabs on the Industry: Feedly
Speaking of which, Feedly is a great help in summarizing all the key information going on in the news that pertains to an industry. You can create feeds based on key topics, or create boards that store key articles about clients. Summarize these topics and have them sent to your mailbox to keep abreast of what is relevant for your client and industry, and look for opportunities to piggyback on big stories (otherwise known as “newsjacking,) or for follow up articles.