Metrics + PR(Mar-Comm) = Business Wins

by Melanie Wilt

There’s a long-running joke around the Shift•ology office we don’t do math. Correction. None of us like to do math; but we do it nearly every day in the practice of public relations.

Most of us were A students in K-12, which means we got As in algebra, geometry, physics and pre-calculus as often as we got As in English. However, it was ten times harder. It just didn’t come as naturally to me as a right-brained individual. But, boy am I glad I learned the importance of math because the further I’ve progressed as a PR counselor, the more I appreciate data to drive communication and marketing decisions.

You may be wondering how numbers are important if you’re creating brands, pitching news stories, and promoting and producing events. The truth is that data is the only reliable way to chart and track results. I’m not talking about counting column inches in the newspaper, Twitter followers or event attendees, but real business results that increase support, sales and increase revenues and profits.

Here are six ways (you better count to make sure we got it right) that we use data to tie PR and marketing efforts to business goals for bigger, more provable wins:

  1. Customer numbers: Look at the number of farmers who purchased from your agribusiness over the last three years. Is that trend rising or falling? What caused it to happen? What factors are in your control versus those that are out of your control (like the pandemic, weather and market conditions). Just charting these trends will help you set realistic, time-based goals, find gaps in your strategy, and get you back on the right track to win customers and acres.
  2. Averages: Averages and medians can be telling as you look at the average total purchase by customer. You can look at this for a single purchase, purchases over the course of a year, or even purchases over a lifetime. Understanding this baseline data can help you dial in your goal-setting for the next quarter or next year. Perhaps you can set a goal to increase the average purchase by 5% next year with a more targeted appeal to current customers. By rolling out a new incentive or loyalty program, you could be making those “wins” easier for the sales team.
  3. Conversion of Digital Traffic to Foot Traffic: The number of impressions on your social media page are not nearly as important as the number of customers who enter the doors of your medical practice to seek out your physicians for expert care. For example, geofencing can target advertising to a person who is already actively searching for a new piece of technology. Geofencing allows you to target that individual based on their search habits and put a digital ad in front of them while they’re shopping at your competitor’s store. This in turn creates a digital footprint that verifies your target left there and entered your store! That may seem crazy, but if you’re selling a piece of technology that costs $20,000 and the digital advertising to that individual cost you $14, that’s a return on investment of 1500:1!
  4. Connections to Conversations: Over the last six years, we have connected more than 250,000 students with farmers live on their farms through Virtual Farm Trips™. While those conversations are not resulting in immediate sales, they are resulting in immediate understanding and trust, which is an investment in future support of a sector of our economy that lives and dies on consumer literacy. The big number of 250,000 is fun to share, but the real results lie deeper in the data. One layer deeper, we could prove that X participants have spent 30 minutes on a farm. If that’s 50,000 participants, that’s 25,000 hours of on-farm time. To take it one step deeper, we conduct pre-event and post-event evaluations to better understand how much the participants’ knowledge and trust shifted as a result of the experience.
  5. Return on Investment: We do our due diligence when we prescribe communication strategies to help our clients determine the lowest cost or highest value per person to create an experience that makes measurable progress towards their goals. For example, those with a goal to educate students have found that they can do that through Virtual Farm Trips for less than $1 per student. For a simple ad-to-customer ratio, take the total cost of advertising spending for the year divided by total customers. This will tell you how much you spent on ads for each customer. You could take it one step further and do an advertising-to-revenue ratio. A good rule-of-thumb for paid advertising investment in retail is to keep it under 10%. For service-related industries, it should be closer to 2-3%.
  6. Establishing the goal line and your distance away from it: Public opinion polling is a great measurement tool for understanding the goal line. If you’re running an election or levy campaign, you know the goal line is to get at least 51% of the vote to win. But, a poll of voters months ahead of the election will tell you how far you have to go. If 35% percent already side with you, that means you have to maintain their support and convince another 16% of the voter base. You can take a deep dive into previous voting data to dial into understanding the precincts where you should spend your time and money. Asking your sample audience how likely they are to change their mind based on messages you present to them. Again, percentages and numbers here provide great insight!
  7. Event numbers to inquiries and enrollments: When you host a live or virtual event, you may be tempted to celebrate that 52 people walked through the doors but don’t stop counting there. Make sure to engage with event attendees with specific objectives. If you’re hosting a school open house to recruit new college students, the real results of your event are applicants or — better yet — enrollees.

We still like to KISS (keep it simple stupid) when it comes to the numbers. After all, if you’re anything like us, you’d like to leave this to the accountants. But it’s important to work at tying data to your efforts to impress the ones who are paying attention and remind them that PR and marketing are critical to the bottom line.

Want more help examining your numbers game? Contact me via LinkedIn!