The ROI of Tech PR and Why Most PR Firms Fail

July 24, 2013


More often than not, when clients come to us from another PR firm they complain about 3 things:

a)   Lack of results or way to measure success

b)   Bad writing

c)    Inability to understand and pitch their technology

Since this is my first official blog, I’m going to keep it short by focusing on the first topic, measuring PR success.  If you like what you read, tell me, and I’ll share my thoughts on the topic of writing and pitching at a later date.

Before we begin, let me be clear. If you’ve hired an agency or have an in-house PR manager that doesn’t already use metrics to measure success, they should be fired.  Given how much your company is spending on PR, you might also ponder the question of why you haven’t been fired by now.  Good news is, it’s never too late to start.

Despite the very real differences between PR and other lead gen types of activities, they do have one thing common – mapping back to business goals.  This is where I think it’s worth pointing out what a PR goal should and shouldn’t be.  If you come to us wanting PR to drive 10,000 downloads of a new widget, then you’ve come to the wrong place.  However, if you want PR to help raise awareness of your brand among small business owners with the hope they’ll download your widget once they visit your site, that’s more realistic.

Which leads to another popular misconception (rant warning).  Getting an article in TechCrunch isn’t necessarily the Holy Grail.  Sure, TechCrunch might make sense if you’re trying to secure funding or reach consumer audiences. But, for most of our clients (especially enterprise software ones), they’d much rather get a story in ZDNet. Hands down, the caliber and quality of reader is way more qualified and less transient than the TechCrunch audience.  And, since we’re talking about measuring the success of PR, converting leads to sales far outweighs driving low quality traffic to your site.

Because I promised to keep this short, I’m going to stop ranting and offer up a few ways to measure the value of PR.  This list is by no means complete but it’s enough to get you thinking.

  1. As we touched on earlier, good PR usually maps back to business goals.  For example, if you are trying to reach C-level tech buyers, ask your agency to specify which outlets they are targeting (CIO Magazine, SearchCIO, etc.) and map the metrics accordingly.  This may be something like “Secure briefings with (3) tier-1 and (4) tier-2 outlets.”  Make sure everyone is on the same page with how the tiers are aligned.
  2. Despite how vague a buzzword like thought leadership can be, it is possible to assign a value to it. For example, let’s say you have a customer who talks to peers about how great your product is, but won’t talk to reporters or do a press release or case study.  A Speaker Program can be a great, measureable category of thought leadership.  Ask PR to come up with a short list of qualified conferences to submit for (SXSW, AdTech, Interop, whatever) and assign metrics.  This could be “Research and track top-15 conferences. Draft and submit 3 abstracts.”
  3. Recaps.  Go back every month or quarter to see how well PR performed.  In the case of briefings, is the number being reached? If not, why not? Are you, the client, falling short on promised deliverables (a customer, not making time for the briefing)? If so, did PR make recommendations to readjust and keep the coverage pipeline full? In the case of speaking, are abstracts getting consistently being declined and in need of a refresh?  Take time to course correct.

By applying critical thinking, it becomes much easier to assess the value of what might otherwise be seen as elusive and intangible.


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