The Hidden Value of PR

Ever tried measuring the return on investment of your press releases? Although seemingly simple, the process turns out to be more complex than one might think.

Recently we published a press release announcing the WebToCRM product. The purpose of the press release was to introduce WebToCRM, but also to generate traffic and leads to the tealium.com Web site. So how did the press release do? It turned out to be quite successful as shown in the chart below. It ended up generating a tremendous boost in traffic.

Visit Trends

The site traffic on May 20 increased exponentially on the day of the PR launch. Given the fact that Tealium is a startup and the site does not get much traffic today, clearly the increase can be attributed to the press release.

But drilling down into the data reveals a hidden value of PR that cannot be detected by web analytics solutions. To analyze this more, we’ve broken down the traffic by source. The categories analyzed are “Bookmarks or Directly Referred” (typically direct traffic to the site or emails), “Search Engines”, “PR Sources” (compilation of referring URLs associated with the news stories), and others (not fitting any of these mentioned categories). The results are shown in the figure below.

We’re analyzing two seven-day periods, one before the release and the other after the release. The results are definitely revealing. Obviously, the PR traffic increased since there was no PR the previous week. But more interesting is the fact that both the bookmark and search engine traffic increased dramatically as well. In other words, there’s a hidden value to PR that previously hasn’t been mentioned in the Web analytics world. Because of the press release, more people came to the site directly and more people searched for “Tealium” on search engines.

If you’re a marketing veteran, the results make sense. Press releases are a great medium for generating awareness. Also, by creating a marketing mix that includes multiple touch points (PR, search, banners, trade shows, etc.), you’ll get an overall result that exceeds each one of the touch points combined. In other words, 1+1+1=4.

However, it also reveals the challenges associated with PR measurement. It shows both the effectiveness of online PR, as well as the difficulty of measuring it. In our case, this was not a difficult task, because of the reasonably low traffic that we were getting before the press release. But if you’re a high traffic site, measuring the effectiveness of PR becomes much more challenging and certainly an area that has not been addressed by Web analytics solutions.

The field of PR measurement today consists of understanding your Outputs, Outtakes and Outcomes. Outputs and Outtakes are fairly simply to measure, but Outcomes (the business results of the PR – site visits and conversions in the online world) are much harder to measure, and ironically more valuable. We’d love to hear back from you about your experiences in this field and what you’ve done in your organizations to solve this problem.

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