The Journey from Coverage Tracking to Media Intelligence
The year just started, but it's not too late to talk about building a data-driven earned media strategy for 2022. But before we get into the specifics, it's essential to understand where you are in your PR journey.
Most PR pros that I know are measuring the effectiveness of earned media in different ways. Of course, some are more advanced than others, but most of the time, they realize the importance of quantifying their work to show business value.
I have ADHD, and I don’t like gray areas. So I tend to put things in a box and see it as black or white. It keeps my life simple and easy to navigate. This is also how I look at data, especially within public relations.
On one side, there is PR measurement, which measures a specific PR program, campaign, product launch, or announcement after it is over. It comes in a media dashboard and is presented in a QBR or a monthly coverage report. It will include KPIs like total reach, total impressions, share of voice, and in some cases, earned media value (which I don’t recommend measuring).
On the other side is research and analytics. I like to call this media intelligence. It uses media data to inform a PR program, campaign, product launch, or announcement. It usually happens before any media outlet is pitched or any press release goes out on the wire.
Most of the PR pros I know don’t do this.
Introducing the Media Intelligence Maturity Model
Below is the Media Intelligence Maturity Model that I developed about seven years ago. Of course, it has adapted over the years, but one thing will always remain constant–PR pros measure earned media in different ways, and it changes over time.
The model is flexible and depends on variables like company culture, how sophisticated the PR team is with analytics, and whether the team leader is open to innovation.
This model is not sequential or linear in any way. I have seen instances where PR teams will ramp up quickly and move from coverage tracking to media intelligence within months.
Regardless of where you think you are on this maturity model, one thing is constant. You must start using data and analytics to inform your earned media strategy.
The Basics: Tracking Coverage
Companies in this stage are at the beginning of building their PR strategy. In some cases, it's a one-person team, and they are responsible for managing more than just public relations. They probably own marketing, events, demand gen, and everything in between. Unfortunately, they don't have access to media monitoring tools and rely on manual Google searches and an Excel document to capture coverage.
If any reporting does exist, it's basic and not actionable.
In this stage, PR teams start to think more strategically about measurement. They most likely have invested in an enterprise media monitoring tool and use it sparingly. They automate coverage tracking and probably export these reports into a PowerPoint template. Typical reports would include tracking coverage month-to-month, total reach, and competitive share a voice.
PR teams are comfortable using media monitoring software, although most of that usage comes from ad hoc requests from internal stakeholders or basic monthly reporting.
In this stage, PR teams are becoming more sophisticated in tracking coverage and measuring the effectiveness of their earned media program. They have most likely established some basic KPIs and have a consistent measurement framework across their teams. They're also exploring new ways to measure PR outside of reach and impressions.
Teams are also reporting on monthly coverage and may start to include different types of coverage. For example, they might start measuring headline mentions versus pass-through mentions and track message pull through. The critical behavior in this stage is that they are beginning to explore software and think through new ways to show business impact.
Companies tracking media intelligence are at the advanced stages of measuring the effectiveness of their PR programs. They are using data to inform and prioritize media strategy globally. Their KPIs go beyond reach, engagement, and impressions and show real business value. This is an advanced form of media coverage analysis, which can uncover new media outlets based on key metrics like volume of coverage, audience engagement, and total readership of the media publication.
For reporting, they quantify earned media and its impact on web traffic, conversions and leads, audience engagement, and sales and ROI. They're also taking it one layer deeper and tracking journalist engagement, identifying influencers, and uncovering new media outlets to add to the target list.
Using Audience Data to Inform Earned Media
As mentioned, one of the critical variables of advanced media intelligence is using data to inform an earned media strategy. Unfortunately, even the PR teams that fall within this stage are still only using one data source in their analysis–media outlets. They analyze the articles journalists publish about their product, brand, or industry. Don't get me wrong, this is smart and should not be ignored.
But other data sources can be helpful in this analysis. For example, audience data could find the target media outlets that specific consumers read and share online. For example, let's assume that you are a shoe manufacturer and your target consumers are 18-24-year-olds living in urban areas who listen to underground Hip Hop.
You might assume which media outlets they subscribe to and read online. But hope is not a strategy. In this case, you would build an audience based on the target variables above and analyze their media affinities and conversation over some time. The audience insights would include the percentage of those consumers who follow certain media publications and how often they share and talk about articles published from those outlets.
Working in PR is Like Being In Sales
Working in sales isn't easy. I've never been good at having quotas. The pressure gives me anxiety, and it brings out a competitive spirit in me that I don't necessarily love.
But working in public relations is almost the same. You may not have a sales manager tracking every phone call or adding your name to a leader board every time you close a deal. But you might have a CEO breathing down your neck asking when that piece in The New York Times is going to be posted.
If you work at an agency, you might have that “angry client” who wants coverage every single day even though they have no news to share whatsoever. The stress can be nerve-racking.
Salespeople have a lot of tools to help them manage prospects, contacts, track email open rates, etc. There are hundreds of different CRM platforms available for sales teams to use.
And while PR pros aren’t selling products directly, they have a tough job of “selling their product/service/CEO” to a cynical journalist. They have to first identify the journalist, try and write a compiling pitch, send the pitch, email a follow-up, make a phone call and then do it again, over and over.
I don't work for Propel, and I am not affiliated with them in any way. But their PRM platform is the only tool available in the market that helps PR pros manage relationships with the journalists and track coverage at the same time.
It's 2022, and it will not get any easier to secure coverage in your top media targets. So it's critical to use data to inform your pitches, prioritize your media outlets, and manage the process of journalist engagement along the way.
To learn more about Propel, book a demo with our team below: