If you’re not using data, it’s pretty likely your PR strategy sucks


Online PR offers companies exposure online through social media, industry news websites and blogs. You are able to reach customers through niche websites, which creates a targeted and potentially measured approach. It reaches the digitally connected audience, who are reading news and researching during work hours and on their mobiles after hours or on the go. This is where traditional PR is extremely limited and where digital PR excels. Together, they make for a powerful marketing tool. However, without data online PR measurement becomes just as fuzzy as offline.

Before diving into the data side of things, lets start by understanding the audience first.

Don’t sell out to all online channels

Online PR has a plethora of online channels to promote their clients’ business on, more so than the amount of channels a traditional PR strategy is limited to. These channels include community blogs, social media (Facebook and Twitter) and local news websites as the most prominent channels. A few years ago, we saw companies trying leverage every single channel they could possibly be. These channels are becoming a lot more mature and complex. So understanding where your audience is will help you stay focused on channels that show a good return on investment. Try answering these questions when in the beginning stages of your PR strategy:

  • Who is your targeted customer?
  • What are the details of each of your personas?
  • What does your sales funnel look like?
  • What does the customer’s buying cycle look like?
  • What message do you need to create based on the engagement cycle?
  • What is the customer context when reading your article?

Connecting with the audience

While traditional PR involves trying to get a clients message across in the most effective way possible, this is a one-dimensional strategy. Ensure there is enough budget for a blended PR strategy of both offline and online. If budget is a concern, I’d suggest only focusing on specific online channels that are very targeted to your audience. Online PR should focus highly on creating dynamic relationships with the clients customers, asking them questions and provoking interest within the client. The strategy should aim to interact with the audience as much as possible. The more you are able to get the audience to engage with your content the more opportunity you will get to refine your product offering.

Online tools that every PR consultant (and digital marketer) should be using

Google Web Analytics

Probably the most underutilised tool in the digital marketing industry. Google Analytics allow webmasters to measure important metrics which enables developers, designers and content writers to make the correct strategic decisions. Tracking a websites progress and statistics is vital as it gives a business an indication of how effective their investment in digital PR is. Which brings me to the question, which metrics need to be measured by Google Analytics in order to roll out a successful PR campaign? Article page views, bounce rates, conversion ratio from visitors to leads, email sign ups to name just a few.


Building a social user base is important, but what really matters is being able to accurately track it. You need to gather a wide range of metrics on as many social media channels as possible. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever you may be using, use more. A lack of social sharing may allow you to track where the possible faults in a social media channel may lie and from there you can fix them.

This is where Sharedcount.com comes in. You insert your URL in the Sharedcount.com “enter URL” section and in seconds it provides the amount of shares for each social channel. This will allow you to track how well a PR article does on that social channel.

Use sharedcount.com to track competitor articles as well or find out what articles are doing best on industry websites. This will give you a great understanding in terms of what content people are likely to share. Tailor your content strategy accordingly, this will make your efforts are lot more effective.


People love polls and voting. It’s an easy way to monitor what your audience wants and what is popular from their perspective. Polldaddy is a free tool that sets up a polling system for your blog, making your site more interactive and entertaining. Please ensure that you have a decent amount of visitors to your website or you have a large community before you consider a poll. There’s nothing worse that creating a poll and you don’t get any feedback. We generally tell clients that unless your website is receiving at least 10 000 website visitors per month, don’t consider this a tool to get feedback. The data won’t be sufficient.

Google+ has recently launch polls. Whether this will ever tie into promoted posts remains to be seen. Watch this space…


This content analytics tool directly measures what content your audience is interested, how much they read and how far they scroll down. This can be used in conjunction with a blog post whereby you can position your call to action or bonus reward to keep the reader interested. With this tool you’re able to boost your blog ratings as well as figure out what your audience is interested in.

Open Site Explorer (moz.com)

Open Site Explorer is a link analysis tool that gives you a picture of what Google or Bing’s groundwork looks like. You can use it to gather a massive amount of information about your or your competitors site. It enables you to evaluate the strength of your links, incoming or outgoing, which is important for measuring whether a link is hurting or improving your site. Another feature of Open Site Explorer is the ability to run a competitive scan on other websites. Check if they’re competing for the same keywords measure the success of their incoming/outbound links.

Metrics provided by Open Site Explorer:

  • Quality rating of your website
  • Overall links on your site
  • Social media metrics
  • Quality rating of your webpages
  • Quantity of domains linking to your website


Reputation management can be a difficult task, especially without the right tools. Brandseye is a tool that does a great job in tracking most if not all the mentions of your company, not only on Facebook or Twitter, but every time someone mentions your brand online. This is a huge asset to any PR company or department as it enables you to keep a close eye on what people are saying about your client’s business. From that point, strategic business and communication decisions are made much easier. It is vital for monitoring how well a PR piece has done. To date this is the most cost-effective brand monitoring tool out there (that I have found). There are other tools like Radian6 and Meltwater for larger brands but it’s more expensive. Brandseye can manage both small and large business online brand mentions.


Not necessarily a data tool but it’s great for social media management amongst social media teams. It is a tool designed to link all of your social media platforms together, allowing you to schedule when a tweet or Facebook post goes out as a basic example. So instead of logging into each of your social media platforms one by one, they are all linked and can be accessed on one login, Hootsuite.com. This is a must have for any PR strategy involving a large number of social media platforms and who have team members all contributing to the content process. Although Hootsuite is free initially, the benefits of the paid services it offers are massive. The only gripe I have with Hootsuite is that it can’t approve posts by another team member. A major shortfall in this software space. However, Hootsuite in general does the best compared to it’s competitors.

Email alerts (Google Alerts)

This is an easy (and free) way to track any keyword you want that is published on the web (and made indexable by Google). In this context, I suggest you use it to track company brand names. Use the Google Alert tool and you will be alerted on your email or by RSS feed every time Google indexes content about a brand you have tracked.

An update I noticed late last year was that Google Alerts now allows for regional searches so you can drill down to specific countries. The lack of this functionality was always a limiting factor for smaller countries like South Africa.

Important metrics for PR consultants to be using:

Article traffic
How many people are actually visiting your article and did this number of visitors spike? If so, take note of what channel the spike came from. Does it continue to generate traffic months later after publishing? If not, consider how you can optimise it for SEO. Report back to client on old articles and their current traffic. Always ensure you have a blend of evergreen content and PR content. The evergreen content will continue to drive traffic while the PR content will send the message of authority to your readership.

Inbound links
Measuring the amount of incoming links to your site is vital for your website’s authority. Did the inbound links affect your traffic or was it as a result of the excellent shareability or clickability of an article?Traffic referrals – Measure how many referrals you gained post-release and ask the question “where did these referrals come from and what did they do once they arrived on your website?” This makes it easier to target your audience more accurately. If you notice a decent amount of referral traffic from a specific website, it’s a good idea to build an ongoing relationship with the editor or webmaster so can you get another link from the respective website.

What website drives the most conversions via it’s referral traffic?

You need to establish a relationship with these websites and figure out what you can do to add value to their community i.e. the simplest is to contribute content

Article social shares

Social sharing is the litmus test of how well your story has performed. Remember to consider the emotion behind the story and ask the question, “why will someone share this article?”.

  • To compel my friends to take action
  • To express my personal values
  • To inform others about something important
  • To make my friends feel better

Reporting with a purpose
Without the right data to report back on, you are sure stumble along and second guess yourself as to what content to write and where to write. Be transparent, even when the data shows that perhaps the article never performed like it should’ve. Make use of not only the data provided in this article, but keep searching online for more ways to improve your online PR strategy. It comes down to testing. Keep trying until you find the perfect formula and tools for your PR strategy.

Neil Pursey


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