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B2B Marketing, B2B PR, Content we like, Guests, Guides and advice, Opinion, PR in the press, PR services, Sector knowledge

Q&A on PR measurement with Richard Benson, CEO and founder, Releasd

Richard Benson is the founder and managing director of PR reporting and measurement platform Releasd. He used his agency background to develop an intuitive platform designed to address the reporting challenges faced by today’s PR professionals.

Releasd hasn’t been developed with the sole intention of measuring coverage of PR campaigns. Its next iteration will measure their impact too and the net result of what it has done for the client. Whether it is engagement on social media, a spike in website traffic or more people wanting to find out more about the product or service offered by clients, Releasd will demonstrate how campaigns deliver return on investment (ROI). We asked Richard about his career and the platform.

How did Releasd come to be?

I worked in PR for about six years. The reason we exist is because we did an enormous project for big, global brands that generated hundreds of pieces of coverage. The report on it was hundreds of pages long too and it was a real project for the agency to put it together. The project budget was cut soon afterwards and a lot of people lost their jobs. It transpired that nobody had read such a big report. Because, you know, why would they?

I thought that it was silly. And, as you hear all the time on Dragons’ Den, there must be a better way.

We tried to build it and it’s been a long journey over the last ten years. When we launched, the industry wasn’t particularly tech-savvy. We didn’t really know what Software-as-a-Services (SaaS) was. We were more expensive in those days and it was a big ask to make an agency change from the measurement status quo. But as time has gone on, the industry has wanted to professionalise the way it reports. Attitudes have changed and demonstrating the value of work is no longer seen as a nuisance.

Reporting was a massive energy drain and the result tended to be a dry Word document with screenshots and scans in it. We felt it should be an opportunity for PR agencies to really showcase the brilliant work they’d done. And not just coverage, but what’s gone on behind the scenes too, because that’s where a lot of the value often lies. So you can demonstrate what’s in the pipeline, what relationships you have been building, plans for events and so on. Tools like ours have helped the industry switch reporting from being a laborious activity to a proud showcase of an agency’s work.

It’s in everyone’s interest for the report to be succinct, visual and to really communicate what’s gone on. Agencies want to prove their value and clients need them to prove their ROI. A compelling summary of what the money has achieved is good for everyone.

How has Releasd changed measurement over the last decade?

When we started, Releasd was far more rigid. Essentially, it was a grid of coverage. Now, it’s the most flexible, visual reporting platform. It’s the only one that can showcase the full breadth of work done by modern PR teams in one place. Also, we’ve invested in cutting edge measurement so can provide metrics like Coverage Views and Dark Social Engagements.

Do we invest enough in measurement? And if we don’t, why don’t we?

We’ve just done a comprehensive audit of the big media monitoring platforms that offer analytics. We looked at what they were evaluating and how they were doing it. Broadly speaking, they were all the same as they offer two services. Either built-in analytics that monitor the media and analyse the basics, or bespoke reporting. The latter can be lucrative but unaffordable to 95% of the industry including in-house teams.

The time investment required for an agency is also an issue, because you need people constantly analysing the coverage. Most PR teams don’t have that kind of resource. So, you’ll either have one of two things: a full-blown report created by consultants or the same old, simple charts and graphs that represent basic metrics which can be inaccurate.

There’s going to be a big paradigm shift to machine learning and, yes, I’m going to say AI. This will have been trained in the nuances of public relations and will bring bespoke reporting and measurement together with evaluation to everyone in the industry. We’re investing in it because it works for this use case.

Can you give an example of what Releasd would do?

Imagine you’ve done a good campaign and achieved 250 pieces of coverage across several geographies. You want to know that your key messages are penetrating and the sentiment of the coverage is positive. We can do that in ten seconds. It shows how you can meaningfully improve your messaging as an agency. There’s a difference between a press release printed in a content farm and a bona fide piece of editorial. If you can prove the latter, it gives PR people more ammunition when they’re doing their reports.

It’s outcomes versus impact, isn’t it? It becomes difficult for a PR person to measure impact unless there’s a marketing person on the other side who can overlay their analytics data on top of the PR work. This would give a picture of the peaks and troughs. True impact is whether or not people have engaged – is it sales, web traffic, social engagements? We need to ask ‘What is the end game we’re trying to demonstrate?’

Having a CEO or head of marketing at an SME who really understands what PR can do as part of a broader marketing plan is a great position to be in. They can help to demonstrate ROI by providing access to their data that will provide the insight that demonstrates that your campaign has really moved the needle.

It’s harder with multinationals where those relationships don’t exist. They’ll have big departments devoted to crunching data and feeding back on the impact of content marketing campaigns on referrals and orders. Smaller companies are often happier to share their data and you can see how the content created has inspired people enough to engage. They either download the content, give their contact details and go into the sales funnel. The knowledge from the data unlocks the real value of PR.

There can be a fear of measurement, can’t there? You need to be able to map the analytics to the PR activity, so if you publish a blog at 9am and see a spike in traffic at 9.15am, you know that nothing else could have caused that spike. If you can’t, you’re making assumptions. And the industry is reluctant to do that.

There are some agencies that just aren’t interested in measurement. Most are just quite happy with coverage views and social views. Skout is a rarity because you’d rather push for something else if the current solution isn’t working. You’ll keep going until you find something that works, that you can share with your clients and continually improve the measurement service.

Why wouldn’t you want to go out and say every campaign you do is successful and delivers tangible benefits back to your clients?

Playing devil’s advocate, imagine having a nice retainer each month with great results that keep your client happy. Rocking the measurement boat and attempting to show real ROI comes down to fear. Based on metrics that we’re providing to the client, I can understand people being fearful to ask for more detailed marketing data from the client. It might reveal that PR activity doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of quantifiable results. The risk then is that the client may withdraw the contract and use the money elsewhere.

But equally, PR agencies should be looking to be open and honest in their approach to measurement. Having all of the pieces of the jigsaw when it comes to measurement means that you are in a positive feedback loop. You can work with the client to make changes that will have a demonstrable benefit to the campaigns you are delivering.

To talk to us about measurement, get in touch.

About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

B2B Marketing, B2B PR, Content we like, Guests, Guides and advice, Opinion, PR in the press, PR services, Sector knowledge

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