Advertisement provides a practically unlimited number of analytics on conversion rate, reach, impressions, engagement, and return on investment. Public Relations on the other hand, provides little to none of this. Measuring return on investment from public relations is a monumental challenge, and down right impossible in some areas.
But with a little Google Analytics magic and a bit of luck, it’s possible to see how many customers you’re acquiring from PR. To make this possible you will need to familiarize yourself with creating UTM parameters in Google Analytics. UTM parameters are what allow you to track sales originating from specific links. With links like this you can monitor how many sales are received from being featured by a publication.
To make tracking links that measure sales from public relations, simply follow these 4 steps:
- Create unique UTM parameters. Using Google Analytics go ahead and generate UTM parameters for each publication you plan on reaching out to. Each media outlet needs their own unique parameter. Later on, you can add these parameters to the end of URLs you want tracked.
- Use parameter friendly URLs. For web pages that need tracking; be sure their URL doesn’t easily reveal the UTM parameters added to the end of them. Make the web page URL somewhat long, with segments separated by a backslash. This will camouflage any UTM parameters that are added to the end of the URL.
- Email different links to different publications. Each journalist you pitch must receive a link that contains the UTM parameters you generated specifically for their publication. If journalists at different media outlets get sent links that contain the same parameters, you won’t be able to track the results. They all be links to the same web page, but the parameter tags on the end must be unique to the publication they are with.
- Track the results. If each journalist was emailed a link containing UTM parameters unique to their publication, then the end result will be that you can track sales, clicks, and shares from each link in your Google Analytics dashboard. It will display how many sales were from each publication that featured you.
I tapped Elliot Stein over at Crowd PR to get an example of this in action:
“We did successfully get a tracking link into a Mashable article. It was for the Barefoot Company product launch. Mashable shared the article to their facebook page and it garnered 32 million views. The analytics allowed our client to pinpoint sales originating from the article at $200,000.”
You won’t have a 100% success rate at getting tracking links into publications. Editors often remove parameters from URLs. However, companies frequently use long URLs as links, and links that contain parameters often go unnoticed. Additionally, publications like Mashable and Wired have in-house referral programs, and links in many of their articles already contain parameters. Your links are unlikely to be unaltered at those kinds of publications.
It’s worth noting that customer acquisition is regarded to be the least valuable aspect of PR. The value of public relations has been widely reported to extend beyond direct sales and into the realms of: fundraising, search engine optimization, business development, and recruiting. As technology continues to evolve, PR will eventually catch up to advertisement one day in terms of analytics.