I am working on the “Measuring Results” chapter for my new book on Internet publicity. In the previous edition, I put the info on measuring results at the end of the book. This time, I’m bringing it forward. It’s certainly one of the most confusing aspects of online public relations.
How do you know if a campaign is successful? If online PR does not return some measurable benefits to the bottom line, it won’t be funded for very long. Despite the Internet’s connectivity, it’s difficult to associate many of the activities in Internet public relations directly with sales. We do our best to analyze whatever numbers we can find.
In 2007, I conducted a blog tour for an author whose book on finance resulted in op-ed articles in the Financial Times and The Washington Post, and a review in The Wall Street Journal. These were the three biggest media events in the life of the book. They happened on specific dates, and we tracked the Amazon sales rank for the book using the very handy service at TitleZ. Here are the sales numbers (the lower the rank, the higher the sales):
May 6, 2007: Washington Post op-ed
05/04/07 — 6,298
05/07/07 — 6,758
05/08/07 — 3,773
May 18, 2007: Financial Times op-ed
05/17/07 — 6,114
05/18/07 — 5,624
05/21/07 — 19,941
May 24, 2007: E-News Release Sent
May 24 – 30, 2007: Discussion Group Postings
05/21/07 — 19,941
05/24/07 — 1,565*
05/25/07 — 4,315
05/28/07 — 2,942
05/30/07 — 5,666
June 5, 2007 — Wall Street Journal review
06/04/07 — 47,802
06/05/07 — 11,575
06/06/07 — 2,026
These results clearly indicate that nothing improved the book’s Amazon rank as much as the online campaign, which took the book to 1,565 — its best Amazon rank ever. The second biggest event in Amazon sales was The Wall Street Journal review, which dropped the book’s rank to 2,026 for a day. Nothing moved online sales more than the online campaign.
In bookstore sales, the results were flipped. The Wall Street Journal resulted in the largest spike in sales, followed by the online campaign. In third place was the op-ed in The Washington Post. The Financial Times review didn’t have a measurable impact on either online sales or bookstore sales.
But sales are just one measure of the success of an online campaign. For most Internet PR clients, other important measures include:
- How much traffic resulted from the campaign?
- How many inquiries, or newsletter signups, or phone calls?
- How many comments on my blog posts or blog tour?
- How many websites ran coverage of the client?
- How many email addresses were collected?
- How many media contacts requested a press kit?
- How many sites installed an op-ed article?
- Did the campaign result in any negative coverage?
Recently, I concluded a website re-launch campaign for publisher, New World Library. We had a disappointing linkage campaign, with only three sites out of 20 installing a link to New World Library; a typical campaign would fetch at least five links. However, we had a successful blog outreach campaign, with nine bloggers asking to receive the publisher’s catalog and press materials. It will take weeks, possibly months, for those results to play out.
The early signs are good. Online sales are up, traffic is up, and the work resulted in lots more visibility and inbound links. Google Web Search results for the company’s name in quotation marks, “New World Library,” resulted in 265,000 matches before the campaign, 353,000 three months later. Alta Vista showed that inbound links to the site went from 395 to 665.
Sometimes it takes years for results to show up. In 2008, we conducted a Blog Buddy campaign with Steve LeVine, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and author of the book, The Oil and The Glory. My crew took Steve on a month-long blog outreach campaign and in short order helped him set up his social networks, clean up his blog, and connect with dozens of top bloggers. The impact on sales at the time was minimal. The impact on Steve’s career was not.
Steve used our training program to get a job producing blogs for The Wall Street Journal. He was then hired by BusinessWeek, which was subsequently purchased by Bloomberg. Last week, I received a private Facebook message from my former client. His blog, The Oil and The Glory, was purchased by Foreign Policy magazine. Steve writes, “I credit you for its success.”
I’ll talk more about some of the other means for measuring the impact of online public relations campaigns in coming weeks. It’s tricky business because many of the positive effects of campaigns (or negative effects from botched campaigns) cannot be measured accurately or quickly.
Steve O’Keefe is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of SixEstate Communications, and the creator of Newsblogging. He has taught Internet PR at Tulane University since 2001, as well as courses for Stanford University, UCLA Extension and PRSA, among others. Steve wrote the bestselling book “Publicity on the Internet” in 1996.