Despite the amount of effort and time that internet startup execs and CEOs spend on PR and media outreach, very few have a good understanding of the impact of their efforts, at either the macro level (i.e., the entire PR strategy) or the micro level (specific press mentions). You don't often hear the word "metrics" associated with the world of PR and marketing, but there's no denying that having a deeper understanding helps in multiple ways - figuring out what media outlets drive more traffic, which ones produce more engaged visitors, what stories get picked up virally, and what message works best with consumers.
A recent article about Kosmix on Lifehacker clearly showed me how little we understand about our own PR efforts. Till we accidentally stumbled upon some metrics around this article, which was featured on the Lifehacker homepage on Oct 13, none of us even realized that this was turning out to be one of our most impactful mentions in the media, which's not surprising, because in the Valley we're conditioned to ingore blogs or sites that don't include "tech" or "venture" in their name.
So what do I mean when I say that this article was one of our more successful mentions? Here are some metrics that I looked at:
- The number of visits from this source made it rank amog our top referrers on the day this article was carried and the next couple of days
- The visitors from this channel were among the most engaged visitors we've ever seen: the amount of time they spent on our site was 3 times the site's average, the page views per visit were 2 times the site's average, their bounce rate was half that of the site's average, and these users left a ton of feedback for us using the feedback form on our topic pages.
- Doing a search on Friendfeed or del.icio.us for Kosmix.com showed us that hundreds of visitors had bookmarked our site or spread the word using various social bookmarking and sharing tools. Bookmarks of course help drive adoption, but they additionally help in the likelihood of your pages being found through search engines (check out my previous post).
And to think except for an accident we'd never even have figured this out!! Of course, knowing this helps us immensely as we get ready for our next wave of media outreach.
Here are some ways you can deepen the understanding of your media efforts:
- For each press mention, track the # of visitors as well as all the engagement and conversion metrics. Google Analytics can be a great tool for startups that don't have an in house metrics system
- Track the number of bookmarks each day and correlate that with media mentions. To find out the number of del.icio.us bookmarks by date, you can go to http://delicious.com/url, and type in the URL, or use their API. Likewise, Friendfeed, Stumbleupon, and Digg might be other places to look.
- Go through the notes written by users on del.icio.us other sites for bookmarking and sharing, and use the comments to fine tune your positioning and your communications. After all, positioning is what users think about you, not what you think about yourself - you can only reinforce users' mental picture through effective communication.
- Track the number of repeat visitors by source using cookies. Use this to understand the kind of blogs or sites, or specific press mentions, that drive the most repeat users.
- Make it easy for users to leave feedback for you, and track this feedback by source. Act on the feedback before your next PR effort.
- Test a few variations of your core message and check if any of them leads to more engaged users; or if any one of them tends to drive more traffic to your site than others.
It's also worthwhile doing this exercise on competitors and seeing if they're having more success than you:)
Would love to hear from you if you have other ideas on tracking the effectiveness of PR. I know that most readers of this blog will likely have more experience with marketing communications than I do, and it'd be good to understand if any of this resonates with you.