For Immediate Release is a series in which we analyze best practices for public relations efforts. This is the first in the series. To see others, follow the For Immediate Release tag on the Foundry.
It’s a headline we’ve seen all too many times.
“Company Wastes Thousands on Disappointing Public Relations Campaign.”
OK, so maybe that’s just how the copywriter felt, crafting a press release bound for a wire service ghost town. But so often, press releases are destined for an ambiguous wire or some strange syndication service no one reads. Still, your PR software dubs it valuable coverage. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to stop and think about your approach to PR.
So many modern models of public relations are still built on shotgun marketing. Sure, you can silo recipients by industry, but in the end, these services are still firing in the dark. The journalist recipients have never heard of the brand, and most press releases are just one of hundreds a reporter receives in a day. So before you pay a premium to be a part of a PR network or purchase PR software, consider these two questions.
What is the True ROI?
Many public relations firms still track PR efforts by an antiquated method called Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVEs). This metric is supposed to calculate what your editorial coverage would have cost if you had purchased an ad instead. PR software companies have algorithms to calculate how much real estate your coverage took up, and what comparable ad buys would have cost. Sounds simple enough, right? Here’s the problem.
AVEs are dramatically inflated. They supposedly weigh positive coverage vs. neutral, and they also weigh the coverage as being worth more than advertising because consumers see advertising as propaganda. Also, even if products are only mentioned once, the entire article is weighed. So your product or service might be the very last item mentioned (and very likely missed by most readers), yet many AVEs credit the entire story as positive coverage.
I previously led an agency’s public relations efforts, and we cut AVEs altogether in our reporting. I could not give clients these numbers, because they’re smoke screens.
So instead of basing your ROI on fluff, use more measurable results such as media interviews, website impressions, time on site and Google Trends. While PR efforts are often geared toward brand awareness, there’s no reason you can’t track conversions during a campaign as well.
Who Actually Covered My Release?
To rephrase that: Did a reporter actually read my release, and contact us about a story? While some wire services may have a readership, it’s critical to ask this question. The best earned coverage is real coverage. Often AVE reports are chock full of “positive” coverage, but when you look at the organizations covering your brand’s news, the reports are wire syndicate platforms. Many of these sites are sponsored by large news organizations, so they pack clout in the name and look nice on a report. But I have actually gone to these sites, and tried to find my client’s coverage and come up with nothing. So it’s astonishing to me that these PR companies can report this coverage value in the thousands of dollars.
So forget the wire services – what reporter or blogger took the time to bite? While earned coverage is unpredictable, you cannot beat the value of established thought leaders and authorities talking about your product in their own voice. Their organization or blog has an established audience, and that audience is likely interested in your area of expertise. I’ll take one reporter being interested in my story to 100, heck even 1,000, wire stories that no one will read.
While I’m beating the hell out of PR software companies’ use of AVEs, don’t get me wrong – their products are powerful tools. I do not, however, support wasting money to do expansive wire releases.
If your answers to these questions were “little to nil” and “no one”, then you have a PR problem. How can you fix it? That’s our next topic on For Immediate Release: How to better utilize your PR software company than email blasts and wire services. If you have immediate questions and don’t want to wait, don’t worry! Email me with your best shot.