Future of Digital: The Future of PR is Numbers Driven

As time goes on, the value of Digital PR is starting to (finally) be recognised as more than just a link building tactic.

In the past, the majority of Digital PR reporting has been focused around the number of links and their average Domain Authority, but hasn’t the quality of links always outweighed the quantity? Why, as marketing professionals, have we allowed this to go on for so long?

In today’s PR world it is still an uphill battle proving the worth of PR to the powers that be, whoever they may be, but that doesn’t mean to say that even our peers and colleagues fully understand it either.

Yes, you may still need PR for SEO purposes, but we still shouldn’t only care how many links are achieved. We should also be questioning how the activity directly impacted rankings and challenging ourselves to tie this back to the overall business goals.

The first step we need to take in order to address this is to stop calling it link building. It’s so much more than that. No matter the campaign or activity running, you’ll more than likely need to include desk research at the very least, but often also content creation, design and onsite development.

We aren’t “link builders” – we’re so much more than that.

As experts, PR’s need to start understanding that we shouldn’t give a sh*t about links and start thinking about how Digital PR can impact ROI directly and how Digital PR can be incorporated into a range of other channels.

An example of this is PPC and PR. No-one has really thought about combining them before. Historically, PPC always gets the glory, traditionally using a ‘Last Click’ attribution model. It’s typically always been easier to prove its value, but we can now see whether someone has engaged with PPC activity because of a PR article through Google Analytics – and we can start attributing PR to some of PPC’s success.

Attributing ROI to Digital PR activity is what we need to start focussing on in order to stay ahead of the game and to continue getting a piece of the pie.

According to a survey in 2017, 75% of comms professionals admitted they need to do a better job of measuring PR (which is still the case) and 70% said they lack the data in order to be able to do so (which certainly shouldn’t be the case).

As long as you have access to an analytics tool (which as a marketing professional, you should), you have access to all the data you need. You can measure top level onsite metrics such as the number of sessions, new users, bounce rate and average time on site, as well as social metrics such as shares and engagements.

These might not be the hard hitting numbers you’re after and, of course, it doesn’t directly impact their business goals, but there’s more.

By tracking the user journey, you can see where a user entered the site, and crucially, if a referral link through your activity contributed to it. Measure this up against your AOV (Average Order Value) and you’ve got yourself the start of a PR measurement model.

There was a recent survey on the importance of PR by PR Week – ‘PR in a Post-Pandemic Future’ which showed a few interesting things.

Firstly, throughout COVID-19, 64% of clients have reduced PR-budget over the last six months. It also showed that 77% have reduced agency retainers and 90% have postponed campaigns.

However, those steps were taken out of panic and are not a reflection of the PR industry and the way that is heading. If anything, with the steps that it has taken during 2020, the value has been seen more in PR, especially when it comes to brands back to market strategies.

For a lot of industries; travel, hospitality and retail being just three examples, they are not going to be able to return to the old strategies they were using prior to COVID-19.

Digital is becoming the main priority and an overhaul of those channels is going to be required to outlast this pandemic. New ways of communicating with customers need to be established to build up trust and confidence, but what we’re seeing is that too many brands are playing it safe, unwilling to invest in digital in fear of it failing.

Ultimately, doing nothing is going to be the biggest failure in this time we are living in. For that reason, we’re going to see PR really come into its own in the not so distant future.

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